Will we meet the Copenhagen emission targets?

By Ajay Gambhir

China, the USA, the European Union (EU) and India, are together responsible for about 60% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions today. If no new CO2 reduction policies are introduced, that share could continue into the future (see Table 1).

-Notes: 2005-2010 data from US Energy Information Administration (EIA) online energy statistics including international aviation and marine fuel allocated on a bunkers basis (i)

2035 projection from IEA World Energy Outlook 2011 (“Current Policies Scenario”) not including international aviation and marine fuel.

Each of the four regions pledged emissions-related targets for 2020 at Copenhagen in 2009, albeit on different bases. Table 2 presents a summary of the pledges, recent developments in emissions (over the past five years), and the possible implications for 2020 emissions if that recent progress were to continue to 2020.

According to this analysis, the EU and USA would meet their pledges (the EU towards the higher end) whilst India and China would have some way to go.

The analysis does not take into account a number of factors, most notably for India where non-CO2 GHGs have not been considered (iii). In addition, using the period 2005-2010 as a guide to what will happen by 2020 has obvious limitations, particularly given that it encompasses the start of the economic crisis which hit the EU and US economies in particular (and which saw annual average growth of 1.4% per year and 0.7% per year respectively, over the 2005-2010 period as a whole ).

So in addition to this crude analysis, a more detailed consideration of polices is required to assess the prospects of these regions to 2020.

-Notes: Data for India and China from US Energy Information Administration (EIA), including international aviation and marine fuel allocated on a bunkers basis. Data for energy CO2 only and excludes industrial process and land use, land use change and forestry emissions. CO2 intensities use GDP on basis of $US market exchange rates (ii).

EU and US GHG emissions data from respective inventories (EU excludes LULUCF, not currently in its pledge(iv))

*Copenhagen Accord pledges as stated in submissions to UNFCCC (v)

Current and additional policies

Current policies in the USA include a Passenger Light Duty Vehicle (PLDV) average fuel efficiency standard (of 35.5. miles per gallon) by 2016, renewables subsidies in the power sector and lifetime extensions for nuclear plants, as well as energy efficiency standards and support measures in the industry and buildings sectors.

However, even if the US were to build on this with what the World Resources Institute (vi) calls “go-getter” opportunities (including cap and trade programmes in the power sector, and more stringent vehicle emissions standards post-2016) it would only see GHG emissions reduce by 12% in 2020, compared to 2005.

Although increased use of natural gas (largely from shale sources) in power generation has had a downward impact on US emissions (vii), the 17% target remains challenging.

The EU Climate and Energy Package (viii) targets are: to source 20% of energy consumption from renewables by 2020; to achieve a 20% reduction in energy usage (against 2020 projections) and to reduce overall 2020 GHG emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels.

Renewable energy subsidies are on the wane in the EU but the energy efficiency target is the real cause for concern. (Source: Flickr/Gonzalo Deniz)

Renewables subsidies (which have driven strong growth in solar and wind power over recent years) have decreased over the last year and it is by no means a given that the EU will meet its renewable energy target. Meanwhile, negotiations around the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive brought concessions in a number of areas which mean it is likely to deliver less than the planned 20% reduction in energy compared to 2020 projections (ix), so risks remain.

In China, analysis by the Grantham Institute, 2011 (x) suggests that realistic achievement of already announced policies would reduce carbon intensity by 38% in 2020 compared to 2005.

A portfolio of “negative cost” efficiency measures (i.e. those whose energy savings more than pay back the initial investment in energy-saving equipment, including standards for buildings, lighting and appliances, and more efficient technologies in industry ) would be sufficient to reach the lower end (40%) of the target range.

China’s 12th Five Year Plan (covering the period 2011-2015, and with a target to reduce China’s CO2 intensity by 17% by 2015, compared to 2010 levels) keeps it heading in the right direction.

In India, according to Grantham Institute, 2012, (xi) research, refurbishment and upgrading of the coal power fleet, reducing electricity transmission and distribution losses, and modernising parts of the steel industry could together help deliver the lower end of its Copenhagen Accord pledge.

As such, India’s Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) energy efficiency trading scheme, launched in July 2012 and encompassing power and industrial installations, is likely to be a central policy tool to achieve such changes.

The 2020 emissions gap, the 2 degrees C target and what happens next

The overall picture suggests that more needs to be done, even to meet the lower end of these regions’ pledges.

Moreover, the gap between all countries’ lower-end pledges and what’s needed to keep the world on track towards a “2 degrees C” pathway remains large – of the order of 10 billion tonnes of CO2e in 2020 according to UNEP, 2011, (xii).

Hence discussions on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Cooperation, to be continued at COP 18, must be mindful of the effort that should be embedded in any international deal that starts from 2020, given what the world is likely to do until then.

Notes and references

[i] Available online at: http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/IEDIndex3.cfm?tid=90&pid=44&aid=8

[ii] In 2007 energy-related CO2 emissions made up about 80% of total GHG emissions in India, based on data from India’s 2007 GHG inventory at: http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Report_INCCA.pdf and EIA data for 2007 shown in Table 1.

[iii] These growth rates (which do not account for inflation) are derived (for the US and EU respectively) from the World Bank World Development Indicators, available online at: http://data.worldbank.org/ and Eurostat, available online at: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/

[iv] EU inventory at: http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/european-union-greenhouse-gas-inventory-2012

US inventory at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/ghgemissions/US-GHG-Inventory-2012-Main-Text.pdf

[v] Copenhagen Accord pledges available online at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/copenhagen_dec_2009/items/5264.php and http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_15/copenhagen_accord/items/5265.php

[vi] World Resources Institute analysis available online at: http://pdf.wri.org/reducing_ghgs_using_existing_federal_authorities_and_state_action_summary.pdf

[vii] See for example: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3aa19200-a4eb-11e1-b421-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1vaeSVRF5

[viii] EU Climate and Energy Package details available at: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/package/index_en.htm

[ix] See for example: http://www.euractiv.com/energy-efficiency/european-parliament-gives-final-news-514732

[x] Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, analysis available online at: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/climatechange/publications/reports

[xi] See: http://www.pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=85182 for details

[xii] UNEP (2011) report “Bridging the emissions gap” available online at: http://www.unep.org/pdf/UNEP_bridging_gap.pdf

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