2020 emissions set to exceed dangerous levels by one third

Posted on 06 October 2010  | 
Tianjin, China:  Global greenhouse gas emissions under current policy settings could be up to nearly one third more in 2020 than the trend needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to the latest “gigatonne gap” analysis conducted by WWF.

Plugging The Gap, a paper released today at UN climate negotiations going on this week in Tianjin, China, shows recent science setting an emissions budget of 40 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change.

But the world is on track to emissions levels of 47.9 to 53.6 gigatonnes, based on promised reductions in major economies – which on past experience may well not be achieved.

“It’s clear that some countries are facing up to the necessary transformations of their economies but other countries have failed to endorse this new trend speedily and are risking the safety and prosperity of all,” said Gordon Shepherd, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

“The climate talks in Tianjin need to see at least some indications of this trend changing.”

The WWF analysis shows that governments have more than enough options to close the ‘Gigatonne gap’ between what has been pledged and what is needed. Promising options include rapidly transforming carbon-intense economies in the developed world, ensuring financial support for enhanced climate action in developing countries, and regulating new sectors and gases currently not covered by the climate regime.

WWF warns that failure to embrace these solutions would put the world at risk of overspending its remaining carbon budget – the total amount of carbon we can still afford to emit to the atmosphere before crossing the threshold of 1.5˚C warming over pre-industrial levels. WWF analysis estimates the global carbon budget for the period 2010 to 2050 at less than 1000 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.

“Every school kid could calculate that if we let annual emissions grow to 50 Gigatonnes and more we will soon have badly overspent our fixed budget,” said Shepherd. “We must decrease annual emissions year after year and share the remaining budget equitably between industrialized countries that already used much of it and developing countries that had no such opportunity.”

The paper shows that setting science-based emission reduction targets in industrialized countries is the most effective solution, with a potential of stopping up to 4.3 Gigatonnes per year from being emitted to the atmosphere.

WWF made it clear that emissions calculations are considerably complicated by significant accounting loopholes which can allow double counting or even fictitious claims of emissions reductions. Closing known policy loopholes and accounting tricks currently undermining the integrity of emission reduction targets would add up to another 2.4 Gigatonnes per year by 2020.

For instance, the double-counting of climate finance and emission cuts from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is estimated at 1 Gigatonne. Currently, such cuts can still be counted in both the inventories of developing countries where they occur and the inventories of developed countries that buy the generated CDM credits. Similarly, money spent by developed countries to buy CDM credits is often also counted as part of the finance support for developing countries they are committed to.

Truly additional financial support for developing countries to boost their low-carbon transition beyond the unilateral actions they pledge already would add another 1.7 Gigatonnes, while covering omitted sectors like shipping or aviation and eliminating non-additional CDM credits generated by projects that would have happened anyway could shrink the gap by at least 1.3 Gigatonnes.

Further questions:

- Ashwini Prabha, E: , M: +41-79-874-1682

The wall with the message I WILL ACT ON CLIMATE – WILL YOU? is composed of photographs submitted by thousands of people from China and around the world, confirming they are taking action in their homes and communities to cope with climate change. It’s part of a wave of action around the world this month, peaking on 10 October with the 10/10/10 global work party in 180 countries.
© Greenpeace/Simon Lim Enlarge

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