- Developed countries, particularly the richest among them, have reduced their emissions by only 7.4% to 8.8% over the last two decades.
- The drop in emissions so far is “not commensurate” with the limits to temperature rise outlined in the Paris Agreement and what is needed to fairly reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
- In the absence of climate finance and affordable renewable energy infrastructures and storage, developing countries, including India, say they need to rely on fossil fuels as a dependable source of energy to achieve development goals.
The richest developed countries reduced their emissions by less than 9% over the last two decades, the latest data from their national greenhouse gas inventories, published by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, shows. Experts have said this drop is “not commensurate” with the targets to limit temperature rise as prescribed in the Paris Agreement, erodes the principles of equitable climate action and limits carbon space for developing countries to grow.
At the COP28 in Dubai, countries are gathered to debate ways to accelerate climate action and limit global warming to 1.5 and 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, a goal set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. Developed party groups, in particular, have called for higher emissions reduction targets from all parties as temperatures inch closer to the Paris Agreement’s limits. “We cannot leave Dubai without more ambition on climate mitigation,” the European Union’s Commissioner for Climate Action, Wopke Hoekstra, said at the sidelines of the conference.
But the latest data with the UNFCCC shows developed countries, which are obligated to take the lead on climate action, have “acted insufficiently” by continuing to emit more than their fair share of what remains of the carbon budget, said Rahul Tongia, a senior fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), a public policy think tank.
The UNFCCC data shows that, as a whole, developed country parties, known as Annex 1 countries under the UNFCCC, reduced their emissions within the range of 17.4% to 21.1% since 1990. The richest among these, reduced their emissions by 7.4% to 8.8% over the two decades from 1990 to 2021.
“These reductions are not at all commensurate with what is needed to fairly reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” said Tongia. “Developed countries need to accelerate their declines to zero earlier, so developing countries have the carbon space they need to develop.”
The UNFCCC’s principle of common but differentiated responsibilities recognises that countries have a common responsibility to address climate change, but that it is not an equal responsibility. Developed countries are overwhelmingly responsible for causing current levels of global warming and have greater means to implement measures to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change compared to poorer countries. In the absence of climate finance and affordable renewable energy infrastructures and storage, developing countries, including India, say they need to rely on fossil fuels as a dependable source of energy to achieve developmental goals.
Global warming has already reached 1.07 degrees, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Crossing 1.5 degrees of warming could worsen the impacts of climate change and intensify extreme weather events across the world. High-emitting countries such as India and China will need to decarbonise fast, given limited carbon space to contain global warming, experts have said.
“The E.U. and U.S., with emissions going down, need to accelerate the declines. They have to get to zero as soon as possible. Countries like China and India have to peak emissions as soon as possible and then decline. Of course, developed countries have a responsibility to do more and faster, but developing countries also have to do what is on the edge of feasibility,” said Glen Peters, research director for the Climate Mitigation at the Norway-based Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO).
Emissions From Annex 1 Countries
Data from the UNFCCC secretariat shows that a bulk of emissions reductions within Annex 1 countries were shouldered by the Economies in Transition (EIT) — a group of countries including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States and several Central and Eastern European States. The rest of the Annex 1 countries are the industrialised and relatively wealthier nations that were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1992.
The “non-EIT” countries, including Japan, European Union (E.U.) countries and the United States (U.S.), among others, collectively reduced their emissions by just 7.4%. Including fluxes from the land-use, land-use changes and forestry sectors (LULUCF), causes this reduction to go up to 8.8%. “The Economies in Transition had a big drop in the early 1990s, which is really because of the collapse of the former Soviet Union,” said Peters, adding, “The non-EIT are in complete contrast. During the 1990s, their emissions grew, and since around 2005-2010, their emissions have started to fall.”
Generally, emissions from LULUCF – encompassing changes in agriculture, deforestation, and others – are difficult to track and considered less reliable than emissions data from the other sectors.
The U.S. – the world’s largest historical emitter responsible for 25% of global cumulative emissions – has reduced its emissions by just 2.3% since 1990, according to the UNFCCC report. Some countries have increased their emissions. For example, Turkey has increased its emissions by 157.1% since 1990 levels, going up to 238% if fluctuations from LULUCF are counted. Similarly, emissions from Cyprus rose by 55%, Ireland by 11.6% and Canada by 13.9% (without LULUCF).
Emissions from the E.U. have declined by 28.6% since 1990 and the United Kingdom (U.K.) by 46.7%. According to Tongia, “The catch with the U.K. is that a chunk of their emissions reductions came from a one time switch from coal to gas, which not a lot of countries have available. On top of this, the U.K. almost quadrupled the share of emissions embedded in imports, to over 40%, which don’t reflect in national accounts.”
The most substantial declines came from the EIT, which together reduced emissions by between 40% and 48% from 1990 to 2021. Estonia accounted for a 68% decline in emissions.
Most of these countries have crossed their emissions peak. “Emissions in rich countries are declining faster than ten years ago, but the declines are not happening fast enough, especially not if you want to reach net-zero by mid-century,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, Professor and Chair in Mathematical Modelling of the Climate System at the University of Exeter and lead author of the Global Carbon Budget report.
“These countries should have reached negative emissions decades ago if the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is to be applied,” said Pallavi Das, Programme Lead working on low carbon economies at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. According to the Carbon Equity Monitor, most of Annex 1 countries are in “carbon debt” compared to their fair share of the budget.
In 2023, emissions from China are projected to increase by 4% more than 2022 levels and India by 8.2%, according to the Global Carbon Budget report. Emissions in the E.U. will decline by 7.4% and the U.S. by 3%. “China’s recovery from Covid-19 has a role to play in the levels of rising emissions we are seeing. If China peaked today, we would decline altogether,” said Friedlingstein.
Fossil Fuel Interests Still Dominate Talks
Instead of reducing, emissions from Annex 1 countries are projected to either remain at similar levels or rise by 0.5% between 2020 and 2030, according to a second UNFCCC report published in October. This is “projected to occur despite the observed increase in the scope, and expected strengthening, of mitigation actions beyond 2020,” the report says.
The decade between 2020 and 2030 has often been called a “critical” one for climate action on the way to net zero emissions. However, the report says that “implemented and adopted mitigation actions (from Annex 1 countries) are not sufficient” to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. “This may also suggest, however, that the impacts of post-2020 mitigation actions for which supporting legislation or regulations yet to be finalised are not yet known and therefore not fully taken into account,” it adds.
During a press conference on December 6, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, said the U.S. would support “largely phasing out” fossil fuels and that “the science was clear on the need to phase out some fossil fuel.” In other media statements, he is quoted saying, “The bottom line is this COP needs to be committed to phasing out all unabated fossil fuel.” Unabated refers to carbon emissions that are not captured and stored.
The U.S., along with Canada, Australia, Norway and the U.K., accounts for 51% of planned expansion from new oil and gas fields through 2050, according to a new report by Oil Change International. “An equitable phase-out trajectory for global oil and gas production based on economic capacity would see these countries completely phase-out their own oil and gas production by the mid-2030s while committing their fair share to finance a fair transition globally,” says the report.
Oil production in the U.S. “will reach and remain at record high levels of 19–21 million barrels per day from 2024 to 2050, while gas production is projected to continually increase, reaching 1.2 trillion cubic meters in 2050,” says the latest Production Gap report released ahead of the COP28.
Small Island Nation States have called for a complete phase-out of fossil fuels, a position the E.U. has also shown support for. Several iterations of negotiating texts on the global stocktake include multiple options regarding the phase-out of fossil fuels, indicating there is no consensus yet on the matter.
“Any calls for phase-out of fossil fuels in India and South Asia should come with means of implementation and climate finance for energy transition. Rich countries must realise that most countries in South Asia have an opportunity to leapfrog to clean energy technologies to meet their unmet and growing energy demand. However, putting the onus on India and developing countries without taking any action at home is immoral and unacceptable,” Sanjay Vashisht, director of Climate Action Network South Asia, a network of civil society organisations, told Mongabay India.
(Published under Creative Commons from Mongabay-India. Read the original article here)