Small emissions reductions and large loopholes add up to world on way to disaster

Posted on 15 December 2009
Copenhagen, Denmark - Pledges for emissions reductions now on the table from developed nations at the Copenhagen climate change conference could be lost in loopholes being built into an agreement, WWF warned today.

“It is possible for developed nations to spin their way out of real emissions reductions, but they can’t spin their way out of climate catastrophe,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s global climate initiative.

“That is the track we are on if the industrialised worlds find ways to increase emissions while saying they are reducing them through creative accounting which allows us to not count emissions, count them twice or count them in strange ways.”

WWF’s analysis identified a possibility that various loopholes could lead to industrialised country emissions increasing to 4 to 10 per cent over 1990 levels by 2020 – a stark contrast with the pledges of 15 - 19% emissions reductions so far tabled by industrialised nations in Copenhagen.

Chief among the loopholes is a lack of provisions governing where emissions reductions can be achieved – in the countries claiming them or as offsets in developing countries where carbon accounting can be much less rigorous. Based on WWF’s assessments, around one and a half billion tonnes of emissions reductions could be compromised in this way.

Current UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules can allow for the delivery of real emissions reductions – but also for developed nations to claim credits for projects that would have been implemented in developed nations in any case.

“To avoid an overall zero sum game, WWF is seeking for the overwhelming majority of developed country emissions to be made at home,” Carstensen said.

Another loophole emerges when countries carry emissions reductions credits forward into new commitment periods – a danger in particular from the “Hot Air” provisions given in abundance to Russia and eastern European economies during negotiation of the Kyoto protocol. Altogether, purchases of such Hot Air could result in sham emissions reductions claims of up to 1.4 billion tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020.
Other loopholes include shoddy rules on forestry and land use change emissions as well as the omission of continuously rising emissions from international shipping and aviation.

WWF is working with delegates to close loopholes by strengthening rules – and is maintaining a watching brief on the creation of new loopholes.

For further information:
Dr. Stephan Singer, Global Energy Policy Director, +32 496 55 07 09,

The European Council agreed that industrialized countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent by 2020 compared to emissions in 1990.
© WWF-Canon / Wim Van Passel Enlarge

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