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Expect More Demands, Counter-Demands for Carbon Emission Reductions As UN Drops COP15 Accord Deadline

31st January was the deadline for countries to submit their proposals for reducing carbon emissions, however, only a handful of countries have submit proposals and officially agreed to the terms of the Copenhagen Accord which has led the United Nations to drop the deadline.


The major players in the climate change fray like India, China and the United States, are yet to come up with proposals and national mechanisms for reducing their carbon emissions. Only Brazil, Japan and the European Union have announced their plans to go ahead with emission reduction measures irrespective of the outcome of future climate treaty negotiations.

Developing Countries Expected to be Aggressive

The BRIC countries – India, China, South Africa and Brazil – are scheduled to discuss their common agenda at a meeting to be held at New Delhi in the last week of January. China and India had major reservations with the demands of international monitoring of their national emission mitigation programs.

China furiously opposed the proposal by the developed countries which would have required the developing countries to report the progress of the their national mitigation programs. Even though China and India eventually agreed to allow ‘analysis’ of the unsupported mitigation programs both the parties made contradictory claims over the issue.

India and China have announced non-binding national targets to reduce carbon intensities by 25 and 45 percent respectively by 2020. And now that they supposedly agreed to West’s demands for monitoring and analysis they are unlikely to announce any fresh initiatives after their meeting. The BASIC countries are expected to demand ambitious emission targets from developed countries since they have announced a slew of carbon emission, carbon intensity reduction targets and significant renewable energy expansion plans.

Brazil announced its target of reducing carbon emissions by 39% by 2020 with a major portion of that reduction coming from afforestation programs for which the Brazilian government is being financially assisted by developed countries. China announced an amendment in its renewable energy law mandating power grid operators to buy all electricity generated from renewable sources. India has finally launched it National Solar Mission which aims to build 20,000 MW solar capacity by 2022.

Disappointment from Developed Countries

There is still no consensus over the issue of handling the adaptation fund for which the developed countries have promised $30 billion dollars in the short term. The developed counties, led by the United States, are against the United Nations acting as the nodal agency handling the adaptation fund possibly due to the failure of the UN-led Clean Development Mechanism to make substantial secular impact in reducing carbon emissions around the world.

The United States only proposed to accept a 17 percent reduction in the carbon emissions by 2020 from 2005 before the Copenhagen summit however, the Obama administration is yet to announce any formal mechanism to achieve the said target. The future of the Climate Change Bill hangs in balance in the US Congress with no hopes of it being cleared any time soon and with the bill is stalled the Cap and Trade mechanism which holds millions of dollars for the domestic clean energy market and substantial credit influx for the international adaptation fund.

The Environment Protection Agency which has found lost vigor in the last one year since the end of the Bush Presidency had attempted to gain power to regulate carbon emissions even in the absence of a national climate change legislation but now two Senators are challenging EPA’s authority on this matter.

Another developed country which has continued with its disappointing and shameful show of inaction is Australia. It has been over two years since the supposedly ‘green’ Prime Minster Kevin Rudd took over but the Australian Parliament is yet to clear any emission target legislation. The Cap and Trade law continues to languish in the Parliament with no future. Australian states do promote use of renewable energy through various feed in tariff schemes however, there is no central legislation governing the national carbon emission output.

The European Union had announced that it would upgrade its emission reduction target for 2020 from the present 20% to 30% if other countries agree on an international deal to substantially reduce their carbon emissions. But after a series of meetings the EU member states failed to agree on adopting a more ambitious target. East European countries like Poland have ben opposing bold emission reduction targets from the beginning as it produces about 90% of its power from indigenous coal reserves and fears increased dependence on Russia if it is forced to move to less carbon intensive fuels.

It is very unfortunate that none of the countries has shown any sincerity in cutting carbon emissions. Year long discussions, last night non-stop sessions at the COP15 have been wasted and the governments around the world continue to extend the nightmare of the climate treaty negotiations. The small island states and other poor countries which stand to lose the most due to the changing climate have no option but to be a silent spectator of this shameful drama being orchestrated at the expense of the planet.

Image Credit: UN Climate Talks (Creative Commons)

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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Written By

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.


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