Carbon cutting pledges need to be improved PWC report shows
The need for real progress at this month's Doha climate summit was highlighted on Monday as a report showed that the current rate of transition to low-carbon economies is too slow to keep emissions within the recommended limits.
"Even doubling our current rate of decarbonisation, would still lead to emissions consistent with 6 degrees [Celsius] of warming by the end of the century," accounting firm PWC said in the results of its Low Carbon Economy Index 2012. "To give ourselves a more than 50% chance of avoiding 2e_SDgrC [increase in global temperature] will require a six-fold improvement in our rate of decarbonisation."
Scientists have recommended that the world stay at or below a 2e_SDgrC temperature change, with any further rise considered to be unsafe.
The firm noted that efforts to address carbon intensity have "largely stalled" in emerging economies, as the E7 (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey) now emit more than the G7, while significant GDP growth is still interlinked with strong emissions growth. Meanwhile, the outlook for mitigating low-carbon technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or nuclear, remains "uncertain" while state-backed support for renewable energy has been "scaled back", the report said.
Countries will be gathering in Doha, Qatar, between 26 November and 7 December to try to make progress on international climate negotiations as the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period comes to an end this year. Pledges agreed at past summits will fail to keep the world below a 2e_SDgrC rise.
"In the period leading up to the Copenhagen UN summit on climate change in 2009, major economies came forward and pledged carbon reduction targets for 2020," PWC highlighted. "Analyses of those pledges suggest that they are collectively insufficient to meet a 2e_SDgrC target. Even more worryingly, with eight years to go, it is questionable whether several of these pledges can be met."
PWC's calculations tracked the progress that has been made towards the 2020 pledges in the past three years.
According to the figures, the EU15 (the member states before the accession of 10 new countries in 2004) has to emit as little as 2,774m tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) by 2020 to meet its target of reducing emissions by 20% compared with 1990 levels. To date, the figures show the EU has cut emissions by 5.5% against planned 2020 levels, with emissions amounting to 3,277mtCO2e in 2011, meaning another 503m tCO2te need to be cut. This is equal to all of the UK's current emissions, PWC said.
Adoption of a 30% reduction target has also been mooted but remains controversial among EU member states, most of which have agreed to offer a conditional reduction target of 30% by 2020 at UN-led climate treaty negotiations, provided other major economies also agree to tougher cuts (see EDCM 1 November 2012).
The US, which is the world's second largest emitter, has cut its emissions by 7 percentage points of the pledged 17% reduction against 2005 levels. However, the report notes that this is mainly due to the discovery of shale gas, which has fuelled speculation that natural gas may stand in as a "transition fuel" to a low-carbon economy.
"Despite concerns about the possible environmental impacts of fracking, a world-wide hunt for unconventional gas reserves had already begun - China, India, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Russia and Saudi Arabia are all known to have significant reserves," PWC said.
"Our analysis suggests that at current rates of consumption, replacing 10% of global oil and coal consumption with gas could deliver a savings of around 1GtCO2e [billion tCO2e] per year, or 3% of global emissions. A shift to gas away from oil and coal can provide temporary respite, a necessary but not sufficient move to the low carbon challenge," the report said.
It also noted that land use changes and deforestation accounted for 17% of the world's total emissions, "more than the entire global transport sector and second only to the energy sector". Protecting forests in parallel to growing the economy will thus be key to achieving low-carbon results.
Carbon stored in forests and farm land will be included in the EU's greenhouse gas reduction targets, if a draft law by the European Commission is adopted by member states and the European Parliament (see EDCM 13 March 2012).
An economy's carbon intensity measures the emissions per unit of GDP and is influenced by the energy efficiency, fuel mix and composition of the economy, such as the presence and activity of carbon-intensive sectors. MLDB
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