Paris Agreement hampered by inconsistent pledges, new research finds

Posted: July 27, 2019 by oldbrew in climate, Critique, Emissions, government, research
Tags: , ,

This study is probably stating the obvious, but doing so in a bit more detail than some other less formal assessments. Being a study, they can’t say anyone’s climate ‘pledge’ was not worth the paper it was written on, because that wouldn’t be polite. Instead they question ‘ambition’ and use phrases like ‘at worst, grossly ineffective’. But we get the idea. Whether the whole Paris thing is an exercise in futility anyway is another discussion.

Some countries’ Paris Climate Agreement pledges may not be as ambitious as they appear, a new study has found.

The Paris Agreement takes a bottom-up approach to tackling climate change, with countries submitting pledges in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to greenhouse emissions, says EurekAlert.

However, writing today in Environmental Research Letters, researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Spain, reveal a lack of consistency and transparency between the various commitments.

Lead author Lewis King, from UAB, said: “The Paris Climate Agreement was a step in the right direction for international climate policy. But in its current form, it is at best inadequate and at worst grossly ineffective.

“Our study highlights significant issues around transparency and consistency in the agreement’s pledges, which may be a contributory factor towards the lack of ambition in the pledges from some parties.”

Co-author Professor Jeroen van den Bergh explained: “The sum of the agreement’s national pledges on greenhouse gas emission mitigation – in the form of NDCs – falls short of meeting the agreement’s 2°C target.”

To shed light on the reasons behind this, the researchers analysed the different country-level commitments by categorising and normalising them to make them comparable. Their four categories were:

Absolute emission reduction targets – absolute emission reductions for a target year in percentage terms relative to a historic base year. The base year is set by the country and ranges from 1990 to 2014, while the target year is typically 2030, and in a few cases 2025.

´Business as usual´ (BAU) reduction – a percentage reduction in emissions relative to a ‘business as usual’ scenario, typically to 2030. It is defined by each country itself, causing a large variance in emissions growth among scenarios.

Emission intensity reductions – a reduction in emission intensity per GDP relative to a historic base year.

Projects absent of GHG-emission targets – NDCs that do not include an explicit greenhouse gas emission target.

The researchers assessed these categories by adding the dimensions of geographic region and emission intensity per capita.

Mr King said: “Our normalisation of the pledges effectively converts them all to the absolute emission reduction target format, but indicating actual emission change – whether positive or negative – compared with a consistent base year.

“We found that authentic absolute reduction pledges had the highest ambition in terms of tangible emissions reduction. By contrast, pledges in the other three categories tend to produce low ambitions with significant emissions increases of 29-53 per cent at a global level.

“Significantly, we found that Northern America and the EU were the only regions aiming for absolute reductions in emissions. In the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia, substantial increases are expected.”

Full article here.

  1. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Hmm – presumably the clever folk who crafted the Paris Climate Agreement terms understood that they allowed for this huge disparity in the type and scale of pledges made. And that the pledges were non-binding. But that hasn’t stopped the world’s mainstream media from emphasising the inadequacy of the pledges made by the West to actually reduce their emissions, and criticise any perceived failure to meet them, whilst ignoring the failure of the ‘developing’ countries (however inappropriate that title is to say China and India) to pledge to actually reduce emissions at all for a decade or more, let alone criticise the fact thet their emissions are soaring. Hypocrisy on stilts!

  2. tom0mason says:

    The many nations that signed the Paris Accord but have done little or nothing in practice are handing the UN an easy opportunity to push for an enhanced international approach.
    Maybe the setting up of a UN Peacekeeper style agency to oversee any nations’ perceived environmental deficiencies. A new agency that, yet again, will mostly be paid for by industrialized nations while pushing developing nation further away from progressing.

  3. ivan says:

    I think they have already started that – UN telling the Australian NSW government that they can’t raise the height of the Warragamba dam. They also appear to be poking their nose into other aspects of Australian eco business.

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