Accounting loopholes, modest targets, spiraling emissions

Cancun pledges from developed countries can be met even without any actual reduction thanks to crafty calculations, points out two studies

June 16 / Bonn

By Aditya Ghosh

Developed countries can meet their modest Cancun Pledges on mitigation even without any actual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) domestically, pointed out two separate studies launched on Thursday during ongoing climate talks in Bonn.

“Thanks to accounting loopholes, in all 12 scenarios of conditional GHG reductions by Annexe 1 countries, they don’t even need to do anything extra as surplus Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), airlines and bunker fuels, surplus land use change would be good enough for them to meet their targets,” said Sivan Kartha, senior scientist, Stockholm Environment Institute, who compiled one of the studies.

During Bonn climate talks, none of the developed countries scaled up their GHG reduction ambitions and thus it was only too easy for them to meet these modest targets, said Niklas Höhne, director of energy and climate policy, Ecofys, who carried out the other analysis.

According to Ecofys, the gigaton gap as suggested by a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study between what is required to keep temperature increase to 20C and where the pledges take us, was far higher than the UNEP estimates. “With the most stringent proposed reductions and stringent accounting, we have calculated that the remaining gap would be 8-12 billion tones,” said Höhne.

Accounting loopholes were just too many and developed country emitters were hiding behind them, accused both the reports. “If LULUCF and double counting of CDM are added to it, then it is virtually an unchanged emission scenario. This will certainly hurt the cause of GHG reductions,” said Kartha.

Though emissions reduced worldwide between 2008 and 2009 owing to economic recession, in 2010 emissions jumped to an all time high. The USA has been the source of largest emission increase in any developed country since 1990. “The emissions in EU27, however, have decreased since 1990,” said Marion Vieweg, project leader, Climate Analytics.

The developing countries have done substantially better in their pledges and in action as well. “China has achieved a 19 per cent improvement in energy efficiency (energy consumed per unit of GDP) between 2006 and 2010, only one per cent short of its target of 20 per cent for that period,” pointed out Höhne.

This is why the European Union should take a lead among the Annex I countries to take up the cause of a second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol, said Martin Khor, executive director, South Centre, a Geneva-based intergovernmental think-tank. “To achieve concrete results in Durban, someone among developed countries has to take the lead and the EU is best equipped, ethically and morally, for that role. Else we will remain stuck in the procedural matters.”


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