Several times in the recent history of the climate negotiations, developed and developing countries agreed on keeping the increase of the global average temperature below 2°C. However, following what the countries pledged in Copenhagen in 2009 and after in Cancun in 2010, the emission reduction pledges will not be enough to meet this 2°C goal. Several gaps must be filled if we do not want them to become an abyss of uncontrollable human and environmental consequences. The European Union is calling it the “ambition gap” and NGOs in the Climate Action Network call it the “gigatonne gap”. In order to address the gap, some actions must be urgently taken: increase emission reduction pledges of the developed and developing countries and close loopholes in accounting.
Increasing emission reduction pledges: in 2007, the IPCC stated that if we want to keep the increase of the global temperature below 2°C, developed countries have to reduce their emissions between 25 and 40% by 2020 (relative to 1990 levels). However, the current voluntary commitments of the developed countries stand far from this range – between 12 – 19% according to a recent report from WRI.
Developing countries can also share the international burden; the IPCC recommends they deviate their emissions by 15 to 20% from what is being called their Business as Usual (BAU) scenario. However, during a presentation given by the AOSIS group yesterday, it seems that the current pledges of BAU deviation for developing countries (and especially the biggest emitters) is not sufficient. Moreover, at the beginning of the session, Oxfam International released a study explaining that developing countries carry 60% of the current mitigation burden while the developed countries barely share 40% of the global goal (LINK).
The responsibility truly taken by the developed countries is consequently extremely low and weak. They fail at fully taking into consideration the principle of common but DIFFERENTIATED responsibility. Loopholes plague mitigation rules, actually canceling out the already inadequate domestic/national efforts pledged. Poor accounting rules in LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Changed in Forestry), for instance, could permit Annex 1 countries to hide important quantity of GHG.
What’s called “hot air” is another controversial issue, this only concerns the ex-USSR countries for which emissions totally dropped after 1991 and the collapse of the USSR. The rules being defined by the year 1990, these countries can consequently keep increasing their GHG emissions and even sell a lot of carbon credits on the market without having to make any domestic efforts of mitigation.
In 2010, different research institutes and even UN bodies warned the world about the consequences of this gap. According to UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), if this gap of 5 to 9 gigatonnes of CO2eq is not addressed quickly (LINK to the report) we can expect an increase of the global temperature between 2 to 5°C by the end of the century.
It is now a matter of urgency that developed and developing countries reconsider their emission targets and close the existing loopholes.