Copenhagen: increased support for two-degree target, but emission reductions too low
The political support for limiting the increase in global temperatures to two degrees has grown, but – as was expected – legally binding international agreements have not yet been made. China and India have agreed to an analysis of their greenhouse gas reduction efforts, financial commitments have been made (30 billion dollars in 2010-2012), and an agreement was reached on management of a fund to combat the consequences of climate change in developing countries. According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), these are the main points of the ‘Copenhagen Accord’, reached in Copenhagen, between the major parties, headed by the United States, China, India, the EU, and Brazil.
The Copenhagen Accord is part of the Climate Treaty
The Copenhagen Accord includes decisions on subjects taken from the Bali Action Plan, which have immediately become operational. Nearly all parties were prepared to include this accord into the Conference of the Parties’ Climate Treaty. This was done by way of a COP decision ‘to take notice of the Copenhagen Accord’.
- The accord and related decisions can be found on the unfccc website.
More stringent reduction agreements needed
The Copenhagen Accord recognises that considerable emission reductions are required to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. This is the first time that the United States, China, India, and Brazil subscribe to the EU target in this manner. However, current proposals by rich countries to reduce greenhouse gases probably will lead to an emission reduction of 12 to 18%, compared to 1990 levels, while 25 to 40% would be needed to achieve the two-degree target. Further actions undertaken by the United States to prevent deforestation in developing countries and to prevent ‘hot air’, could still increase reduction percentages. The EU is sticking to their commitment to reduce emissions by 30% – provided that other countries agree to make comparable efforts. Propositions from the White House are currently still subject to US Senate approval. The PBL has calculated that proposals made by China, India and the other developing countries would lead to greenhouse gas reductions of between 0 and 10%, compared to the situation under unchanged policy. Much depends on the level of growth taking place in these countries, over the coming years. In a scenario of comparable efforts by all parties to reach the two-degree target, developed by the PBL, this would require a reduction of 15 to 30% in China, India, and all developing countries together.
Two tracks of negotiation
Over the past two years, negotiations have been conducted along two tracks; the follow up of the Kyoto Protocol, and the agreement on long-term joint actions under the Climate Treaty. The negotiations are to continue in the new year, with the aim of reaching a legally binding agreement at the 16th Conference of the Parties, in Mexico City, in December 2010. The Copenhagen Accord has provided a strong impulse to that end, but a number of important issues are still open to negotiation, such as achieving binding agreements on emission reductions by 2020, and finding the solution to the surplus in emission rights, the so-called ‘hot air’. In addition, no agreement was reached on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation or shipping.
Evaluation in 2015
In 2015, an evaluation is planned of the implementation of the current agreements under the Copenhagen Accord. The accord does not include emission reduction targets for 2050. These will be the subject of discussion again, taking into account new scientific results, and referring to the Fifth Assessment by the IPCC, to be published between 2013 and 2014. In addition, around 2015, the request from the African countries and low-lying island states to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, is also expected to be included in the negotiations.