EU calls for tougher scrutiny on 2015 climate deal carbon pledges

Submission to UN warns countries are unlikely to make ambitious emission reduction promises ahead of Paris

(Pic: Ken Doerr/Flickr)

(Pic: Ken Doerr/Flickr)

By Ed King

The EU has expressed concern that proposed carbon cuts ahead of a UN climate deal at the end of 2015 will be insufficient to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

In a proposal sent to the UN it wants an ‘international process’ to be set up to assess and respond to carbon reduction pledges from governments.

“Intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) alone will not be enough to achieve the below 2C objective,” says the EU.

It adds: “The EU expects all major and emerging economies, as well as other Parties that are ready, to also come forward in early 2015.”

The 2C ‘objective’ is a warming limit above pre-industrial levels that governments agreed to target in 2009. Rises beyond that threshold are judged to be increasingly dangerous, risking a number of tipping points, such as melting the Antarctic ice sheets.

The world’s leading greenhouse gas emitters are expected to outline how they will slash their emissions by the first quarter of next year.

These are expected to be the basis of a deal set to be signed off in Paris next December.

The EU’s 28 member states are likely to make a final decision on the bloc’s own climate targets in October. In January it released plans for a 40% carbon cut by 2030.

Comment: Why do this week’s talks in Bonn matter?

UN talks starting this week in Bonn are expected to explore how national proposals can be vetted by other countries and independent analysts.

Efforts to allow an independent panel to decide what level of cuts individual countries should make based on their historical emissions, GDP and current capabilities have been strongly resisted by major economies.

Current ‘pledges’ have left the planet on course to warm 3.7C by 2011, according to research from Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

A submission from South Africa to the UN says developed countries should aim to ‘peak’ their emissions by 2015, with a long-term goal of zero emissions for each Party in 2050.

EU emissions have fallen steadily since 1990, but this is likely to be a contested proposal with the US, Canada, Japan and Australia all recording greenhouse gas emission rises in the past year.

The 54-strong Africa Group, which includes South Africa as well as the continent’s poorer states, wants emission cuts to be based on “a fair sharing of atmospheric space and resources.”

This would require even sharper carbon cuts from the developed world, which has used up the majority of what UN scientists call the world’s ‘carbon budget’.

Separately, a submission from Mexico suggests the legally binding aspects of any global climate deal could already be in place due to agreements made by countries at the UN.

The legal nature of the proposed Paris agreement is one of the most contentious issues, with leading economies like the US and China fiercely opposed to being bound by international law.

Mexico suggests some precedents may already have been set, negating the need for a new treaty.

“Instead of discussing in abstract what kind of instrument we want, we should start identifying and compiling what has actually happened through the various COPs,” the submission says.

“This is a task that a group of legal experts could do under the guidance of the co-chairs of the ADP.”

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