COP15 Draft Should Build Foundation for Progressive Improvement in Mitigation Measures

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The Copenhagen Climate Conference would produce an internationally agreed climate change treaty which would be aimed at achieving significant global reduction in carbon emissions, feels the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Mr. Yvo De Boer expressed his positive views saying that there is still a lot or room for negotiations and convergence of views among the representatives of more than 190 countries meeting in the Danish capital.

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Sadly, though, there are still many issues on which there is almost no consensus, quantum of emission targets being the most important one. Although the developed and developing countries have issued several emission reduction targets none comes close to the IPCC’s recommendation of 25-40 percent emission reduction in global carbon emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels. The developing countries continue pressurize the developed countries to commit to stricter emission targets while the developed countries want the developing nations to restrict their emissions output growth rate. Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution!

The possibility of significant progress has increased substantially given the fact that head of governments of more than 90 countries are arriving in Copenhagen, including Prime Ministers of India, China, United Kingdom and President Barack Obama. But both the parties are looking to pressurize the other into announcing much more than what they have already.

The United States is one of the most significant player in the climate negotiations but it would probably announce a target of 4-6 percent emission reduction by 2020 from 1990 levels which is even lesser than the emission target agree up on in Kyoto Protocol in 1997. President Obama will be arriving in Copenhagen on the 18th but he is not expected to upgrade this ‘provisional’ offer as he has no backing from the US Congress for even this 4-6 percent cut.

The developing countries too have announced meager carbon reduction targets. China has announced a goal of 45 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2020 from 1990 levels but will achieve more than half of this target within the first five years through ‘business as usual‘. India which has achieved 17 percent reduction in carbon intensity between 1990 and 2005 plans to reduce only another 7 percent between 2005 and 2020. There is ample room for the developed and developing countries to do much more. If they can achieve the said targets by carrying on with the traditional practices they can very well achieve greater emission cuts with increased international aid in the form of finances and technology.

A firm commitment from the United States is one of the most significant factor that would influence the climate deal. President Obama is finding it difficult to push the domestic climate bill through the US Congress. The emission targets talked about in the bill, as mentioned above, as extremely weak but still there is fierce opposition to the bill with many lawmakers putting conditions to include important mitigation measures. So an upgrade to the proposed emission cut is highly unlikely, which means that the developing countries would too hesitate to accept stricter emission cuts.

The negotiators might very well agree on the political basis of a future deal but there are remote chances of any improvement in the emission targets proposed. The political consensus might be reached on how to distribute responsibility among the developed and developing countries, how to provide financial aid to developing and poor countries and how to monitor mitigation measures adopted by various countries. But still there are ample chances that the new deal would lack the scientific basis that the IPCC has presented in its many reports.

All the countries must realize that a lot more needs to be done. A political consensus should be reached wherein all the countries agree to reconsider their proposed quantums of emission reductions keeping in mind the scientific evidence and not just their national economic and social considerations. The parties should seek to take up as much responsibility as their current and future economic situations allows them to. The revised proposals must have the option of progressively increasing the mitigation measures as the economic and social conditions improve and as more efficient and affordable clean energy technological infrastructure is available.

The world needs much more than just eyewash and ‘business as usual’ plans. The least the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference can do is to get a strong commitment from all the parties to find room for making their proposals more meaningful, more strict and more in sync with the scientific facts. A weak foundation to this deal would weaken the global cause of reducing carbon emissions which in the words of the IPCC scientists would means ‘catastrophe’ for the planet.

Image Credit: COP15 Website

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.


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Mridul Chadha

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

Mridul Chadha has 425 posts and counting. See all posts by Mridul Chadha