As the Copenhagen conference progresses, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a brief look what’s the various different countries have offered, and reasons why there is some room for optimism about a decent deal being done…
1. The US seems prepared to act, if necessary by bypassing Congress and the Senate. The formal declaration by the US EPA that CO2 (along with other greenhouse gases) is an ‘endangering pollutant‘ means that the EPA can now use it’s powers under the existing Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 as failure to act would “threaten the public health and welfare of the American people”. It appears that if the Senate doesn’t pass the legislation currently before it the EPA will simply regulate greenhouse gases under existing laws instead. The current proposed cut from the US is approximately 17% by 2020 on 2005 levels. Although not ideal, this proposed cut is a dramatic improvement on earlier obstructionism from the US.
2. China has agreed to a possible 40% cut in carbon intensity by 2020. While still leading to increased emissions of approx. 40%, China has also indicated that it may be prepared to name a date for peak carbon emissions sometime between 2030-2040. Although China is currently the world’s largest emitter of CO2, it’s historic and per capita emissions are, and will continue to be, well below those of Western countries. China’s offer, and those of other developing countries, should be seen in that context.
3. The EU has agreed to a 20% cut by 2020 on 1990 levels. This will rise to 30% if the EU feels the deal on offer from the rest of the world merits it.
4. Brazil is prepared to raise its target of a 50% reduction in deforestation by 2020 to 80%, and is offering a 30-39% cut in emissions in 2020 emissions from a business-as-usual (BAU) path. Interestingly, deforestation in Brazil fell by 45% from August ’08 to July ’09, so it would seem that an 80% reduction by 2020 is quite realistic.
5. Japan has agreed to cuts of 25% on 1990 levels by 2020 if all other major emitters sign up to a deal.
7. Norway has promised a 30% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020. However, a significant proportion of this is planned to be from offsets purchased abroad. It also might be prepared to match Germany’s offer of 40% by 2020 in the context of a global deal.
8. India has offered to reduce it’s carbon intensity 20-25% by 2020.
9. Indonesia has offered a cut in emissions from BAU scenarios of 26% by 2020 – rising to 41% if it receives ‘international support’.
10. Ireland is a member of a group of 9 EU countries committing to a large increase in off-shore windfarms -and perhaps more importantly, the associated interconnectors to make it viable.
11. Germany this year set the record for most solar installed in one country in one year, approximately 3GW. Also, Ireland passed the 1GW mark for wind power for the first time, and the world’s first commercial tidal turbine has been deployed – by an Irish company. News like this, along with the increased scale of plans for a transition to a low carbon economy (for instance, the €400 billion Desertec scheme), is certainly encouraging.
13. Obama’s visit has been rescheduled from the start to the end of the talks, hopefully a sign that a worthwhile political deal (and decent photo-op, he is a politician after all) is a real possibility.
14. The UN Environment Programme says that to prevent a rise of greater than 2 degrees celsius global CO2 emissions must be in the region of 44 billion tonnes by 2020. The upper end of the offers currently on the table would lead to global emissions of 46 billion tonnes by 2020 – certainly close to what is required.
15. The noughties are likely to have been the warmest decade on record, and it also looks likely that 2009 will be the fifth warmest year ever. If this does not provide a good reason to reach agreement, I don’t know what will.