AS IT HAPPENED: UN receives first set of national commitments for Paris climate change pact
Updates from Ed King in London (All times BST)
– US commits to greenhouse gas cuts up to 28% by 2025
– Russia confirms to RTCC it will also submit INDC
– Analysts say current ambition insufficient to avoid 2C (CAT)
– RTCC Paris tracker: Who has offered what?
– FAQ: What the hell is an INDC? (Carbon Brief)
1700 – I’m going to wrap up the live blog now. A man can only take so much excitement in one day. With just the US delivering its climate commitment (as of now) it has been a disappointing day for those who expected more countries to come forward.
We’ll have more analysis and news later this week, plus a follow-up on Russia’s climate pledge, which was supposed to released today. A Moscow source tells me it was ready to go, but there has been a last-minute hitch.
I’ll leave you with the thoughts of Saleemul Huq, RTCC columnist, Bangladeshi scientist and veteran climate talks observer:
— Saleemul Huq (@SaleemulHuq) March 31, 2015
1650 – Strong theme from the US press call with Todd Stern and Obama advisor Brian Deese was feeling that they can hit climate targets without support from Congress.
“Every element of the INDC is achieved on basis of existing authority… the undoing of regulations we are putting in place is very tough to do. Countries ask me about solidity all time… but based on existing authority and regulationss it is not going to be easily undone”
That’s a prescient comment, given opponents on Capitol Hill are already queuing up to slam an agreement.
Sen. @InhofePress says Obama’s UN commitment “will not see the light of day with the 114th Congress”
— Timothy Cama (@Timothy_Cama) March 31, 2015
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) March 31, 2015
1640 – Here’s a taster of what US climate envoy Todd Stern had to say just now:
“It’s a big year for climate change with negotiations launched in 2011… we have the opportunity to achieve an historic and durable regime, applicable to all countries. The foundations are nationally determined targets – what we are doing is making a formal submission, that is ambitions, transparent and one that puts the US in leadership position. We have a strong, clear pathway to cuts of over 80% by 2050. We hope the target will help spur others.”
1607 – Now waiting on line for a US conference call at the White House. Some groovy musak blasting away on the speakerphone. But no Todd Stern. Yet.
1551 – UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has released a statement on the US INDC… and it reads (drumroll) as follows
“According to UNFCCC data, two thirds of industrialized countries covering 65% of greenhouse gas emissions from the industrialized part of the world have now set out their ambition for the new agreement which comes into effect in 2020—importantly many of these contributions also speak to longer term aims representative of progressively increasing ambition over time.”
“Over the coming months, we expect many more nations to come forward to make their submissions public. The pace at which these contributions are coming forward bodes well for Paris and beyond.”
1548 – Here’s a dose of realism from Richard Black at the London-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. INDCs are “basically countries making official what they’ve already pledged to do, so they’re unlikely to contain any surprises,” he says.
He argues governments should factor in the benefits of tougher carbon cuts when working on their plans for Paris, citing a study out today that says the EU could save $140 billion each year by reducing fossil fuel imports, prevent 40,000 premature deaths from air pollution and create 350,000 full-time green jobs.
1545 – We’re expecting to hear from the chief US climate envoy in 15 minutes. RTCC will be across that press call from the White House, and we’ll bring you what he says, when he says it.
1535 – More statements are flooding through – below we’ve got the Natural Resources Defense Council, World Resources Institute and 350.org campaign group
NRDC president Rhea Suh:
“We are confident that the U.S. commitment can be met — and even exceeded. Doing so, though, will require several critical steps: setting a stronger carbon pollution standard through President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, enacting other greenhouse gas reductions, limiting methane leaks from production processes and investing in clean transportation instead of letting big oil plunder our precious oceans and landscapes. Taken together, these steps will help combat the gravest environmental threat of our time.”
Jennifer Morgan, WRI:
“This is a serious and achievable commitment. WRI research finds that under its existing federal authority, the United States can reach its proposed target to curb emissions 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. Looking beyond the Paris negotiations, additional opportunities for deeper reductions will be increasingly available for the United States as technology trends make clean power and other low-carbon solutions more affordable.”
Jamie Henn, 350.org:
“This is a big commitment for the United States, but on its own the current offer clearly isn’t enough to keep global warming below 2°C. The only way meet that target is to keep fossil fuels in the ground–starting with a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama can’t claim to be serious about reducing emissions if he’s also opening up major new fossil fuel development.”
1530 – Right. Why does the US think it’s INDC is fair and ambitious? Here’s its answer:
The target is fair and ambitious. The United States has already undertaken substantial policy action to reduce its emissions, taking the necessary steps to place us on a path to achieve the 2020 target of reducing emissions in the range of 17 percent below the 2005 level in 2020.
Additional action to achieve the 2025 target represents a substantial acceleration of the current pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Achieving the 2025 target will require a further emission reduction of 9-11% beyond our 2020 target compared to the 2005 baseline and a substantial acceleration of the 2005-2020 annual pace of reduction, to 2.3-2.8 percent per year, or an approximate doubling.
This target is consistent with a straight line emission reduction pathway from 2020 to deep, economy-wide emission reductions of 80% or more by 2050. The target is part of a longer range, collective effort to transition to a low-carbon global economy as rapidly as possible.
1522 – Here’s the link to the US INDC on the UN climate body website.. although for now it doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps it’s the millions rushing to log on. Or perhaps the UN isn’t very good at html.
1521 – More reaction now flooding in – here are the thoughts of Marshall Islands foreign minister Tony de Brum
“We welcome the release of the US’ proposed emission reduction target, following hot on the heels on the Mexican targets last week, and Switzerland, the EU and Norway in the weeks prior to that.”
“The Mexican target to peak its emissions by 2026 is particularly promising, and we would want to see China move into a similar peaking timeframe.”
“The US target has no big surprises. Our scientists tell us that this is broadly in line with trajectories to keep warming below 2 degrees, but given the absence of any US commitment to the global effort for many years, it’s time for the US to do some heavy lifting. From what we can tell, President Obama and Secretary Kerry are ready to do exactly that.”
“We welcome the US’ maintenance of the 28 percent at the top of the target range, and the fact that the US wants a five-year commitment from 2020 to 2025 under the new Paris Agreement. As we’ve said all along, we need new targets from all countries every five years to ensure we’re making the most of the latest science, the new technologies and the cheapest opportunities. We will look to use a similar approach when announce our own INDC, hopefully in June”.
1520 – Obama advisor Brian Deese says the US climate goals are “ambitious and achievable.” In a commentary released minutes ago he says it will “roughly double the pace ” at which the US is tackling carbon pollution.
Here’s some more from Deese:
What does that mean in practice? In our formal submission to the UN, we lay out several of the policies we are already using to achieve this goal, including the President’s historic fuel economy standards for cars, trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles; energy efficiency measures for buildings and appliances; and programs to phase down the potent climate pollutants known as HFCs, which have up to 10,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
We also highlight ongoing activities that will further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions — including upcoming rules to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single-biggest source of U.S. emissions.
These policies deliver real benefits to the American people. The President’s fuel economy standards mean our cars can go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and because of higher efficiency and lower gas prices, drivers will save an average of $750 at the pump this year. When fully implemented, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 juvenile asthma attacks annually.
1507 – It’s official. The US has submitted it’s pledge to the UN’s climate body, according to Brian Deese, a senior advisor to president Obama
— Brian Deese (@Deese44) March 31, 2015
1459 – Sorry about the silence. It’s just nothing much has been happening. But we’re expecting fireworks in the next minute.
1410 – Interesting take from ClimateWire’s Lisa Friedman in Washington DC. She’s reporting that 118 House and Senate members have publically thanked president Obama for “responding to the serious challenge of climate change” in a letter.
Led by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Chris Van Hollen, the signatories say that the US pledge of 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2025 is “significant progress.” Today’s INDC from the US will show “more explicitly how he plans to achieve that goal”, writes Friedman ($).
Senior Republicans have already launched their own campaigns to derail the White House offer. Senator Mitch McConnell is trying to get states to ignore planned power plant emission standards, while Senator John Barrasso wants to stop any proposed US contribution to the new UN-backed Green Climate Fund.
1400 – Not all countries see today as a deadline. Canada’s one. The press team at the environment ministry dropped us a line to let us know that as far as they are concerned, they’re not bound to deliver targets today. But they did say that the government in Ottawa was committed to a Paris deal:
“Canada is preparing its intended national contribution and, in line with decisions taken in Warsaw and reaffirmed in Lima, is committed to submitting it well in advance of COP21.
“Because this is a national contribution, we are seeking information from the provinces and territories to understand how they intend to meet their targets and how their plans will factor into Canada’s overall commitment.
“Given the importance of this submission, Canada wants to ensure it has the most complete picture of provincial and territorial plans possible before submitting. Leading up to Paris, we will continue to take action at the federal level to reduce emissions while protecting the Canadian economy.”
1350 – Also from Carbon Pulse (see below), news that the UK’s energy and climate chief has asked his counterpart in Japan to consider more ambitious carbon cuts:
“Ed Davey, the UK climate minister, has written Japanese cabinet members asking them to set a 40% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
“The letter, dated Mar. 24, was sent to the ministers of environment, foreign affairs end economy, trade and industry, the paper said. Davey said Japan’s 2020 emissions target – a 3.1% increase on 1990 levels – was too low, and that the 2030 target should be much stronger, according to the paper” – you can read the full story here.
1345 – Mike Szabo from the Carbon Pulse parish has some advice for anyone getting excited about these announcements…
Whys every1 wetting themselves ahead of US+Russia #INDCs? Like we dont know whats gonna be in them: US 26-8% on 05 by 25, RU 30% on 90 by 30
— Mike Szabo (@MikeSzaboCP) March 31, 2015
1336: The emissions cuts promised by the US, China and EU so far will save more than 100,000 lives a year from air pollution, according to the New Climate Institute.
If they ramp up ambition to the level needed to avoid 2C of warming, that number will top a million. The researchers also highlighted savings on fossil fuel imports and the creation of green jobs as extra benefits of climate action.
1326: The BBC’s Roger Harrabin reports that the US announcement is expected at around 1500 GMT.
— roger harrabin (@RHarrabin) March 31, 2015
1318: Some major economies are not expected to come through today. Canada does not recognise the 31 March deadline, an official told RTCC, but will deliver its plan “well in advance” of Paris.
Australia has only just got around to consulting on a post-2020 emissions target and is unlikely to submit an INDC before June, around the same time as China. Japan has given little sign of being ready, while India will not be rushed.
Swiss climate ambassador Franz Perrez told RTCC it would “clearly undermine” trust if the majority of developed countries did not provide details of their plans soon.
Hey @pmharper just a reminder that Canada’s INDC ahead of COP21 is due today-10% deduction from CDN youth’s futures for every day it’s late
— Emma Jackson (@EmmaJackson57) March 31, 2015
1245: What’s an INDC? Sophie Yeo at the Carbon Brief has this handy guide, which starts with the prescient line, “The UN is a world of many acronyms”. Isn’t it just Sophie. QED.
— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) March 31, 2015
It includes an unconditional pledge to halve emissions of black carbon – also known as soot – by 2030. With international support, it says that could rise to 70%.
The Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development welcomed the inclusion of such short-lived climate pollutants (SCLPs) – a first in the UN climate process.
Durwood Zaelke, president of the IGSD, said: “If other countries follow Mexico’s lead and reduce their own SLCPs, we can cut the rate of global warming in half.” It could also save “several million lives” lost to air pollution and improve food security.
Another notable feature of Mexico’s plan is a section on adaptation to climate change. This is a core concern for developing countries.
Sitting between between two great oceans, Mexico is vulnerable to tropical cyclones, floods and droughts linked to climate change.
It promises to establish early warning systems for extreme weather, improve resilience of strategic infrastructure and move poor people from disaster-prone settlements to safer places.
Most strikingly, it promises to reach net zero deforestation by 2030 – a measure that should reduce emissions as well as preserving ecosystem benefits.
1235: To recap on what’s already on the table. The EU has offered 40% greenhouse gas emission cuts by 2030, based on 1990 levels. The top line of Norway’s submission is the same. Switzerland has gone for 50% cuts, while Mexico will target an emissions peak by 2026.
The trajectory of these offers is not enough – according to the team at Climate Action Tracker. Here’s their take:
The EU, Switzerland, Mexico and Norway are rated “Medium.” This means their INDC’s are not compatible with holding warming below 2C, unless many others were to do more than their fair share. If all countries were rated “medium,” the 2C limit would likely be breached. Mexico’s assessment is underway.
In some cases, such as China, which hasn’t yet submitted its INDC, the CAT has assessed its announced policies. The US is expected to announce its INDC this week but it is anticipated to be very much along the lines of what it has already announced. Both have been rated medium. The US INDC rating will be formally assessed once released.
“While there has been some progress in what Governments are proposing for the post 2020 period, with several countries moving from “inadequate” to “medium”, proposals are still a long way from being 2C compatible,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.
“We hope our effort sharing assessment helps governments, the media and observers to interpret the offers made in the run-up to anticipated adoption of the Paris Agreement in December in terms of below 2degC compatibility and fairness. There are many claims being made by governments as to what is fair, and what is comparable, and now there’s an independent, objective assessment that will provide that information.”
1230: Here’s the New Climate Economy group’s take on today – no surprise they’re pushing a positive message.
— New Climate Economy (@NewClimateEcon) March 31, 2015
Others are less convinced. Former BBC environment correspondent Richard Black says there’s unlikely to be any “hold the front page news” (let’s hope – for all our sakes – he’s wrong… or this could be a long shift)
— ECIU (@ECIU_UK) March 31, 2015
1220: We’ve got the latest submissions covered on our Paris Tracker page, as of 1220 BST only 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions are covered. Analysts at the New Climate Institute reckon that by the end of today that figure will have leapt to 28%.
“Coverage will reach over half of emissions around June and over three quarters in October,” they say, based on the assumption that China will release its plans by then.
1215: So, just to be clear. We are not expecting all 196 parties to the UN climate body to deliver their submissions today. If that happens my fingers will likely fall off, and what’s left of my brain implode.
We *are* anticipating the US and Russia to release their plans, joining the European Union’s 28 member states, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland who have already delivered their INDCs to the UN (official link here). There are also rumours of a possible wildcard – such as Ethiopia – that could make the cut.
1200: Welcome to our coverage of climate deadline day. For football (or soccer) fans, it’s like transfer deadline day, only the future of the world is at stake, and we’ll have no interviews with Harry Redknapp in his car.
In December 2013 at the Warsaw climate summit countries agreed that those “ready to do so” should deliver their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs for short) by the first quarter of 2015. That’s today.
The INDCs will form the basis of a global climate change deal, set to be signed off in Paris this December. They will state what levels of greenhouse gas cuts countries will target, as well as detailing financial requirements and plans to adapt to future impacts.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what the INDCs are and why they’re important, this explainer from the World Resources Institute is a good start