Monday, November 2, 2015

UN INDC Synthesis Report Indicates that We Need to Do More

There is good news and bad news in a new UN report on global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). On October 30th 2015, the UN released a synthesis document of intended GHG reductions pledges known as the nationally determined contributions (INDCs). The good news is that countries are committing to emissions reductions and the growth of GHGs will slow in the coming years.  The rate of GHG growth between 2010 and 2030 is expected to be 10 to 57 percent lower than the period between 1990 and 2010. GHGs are also expected to slow on a per capita rate even though the worlds' population is growing.  The bad news is that current INDCs are insufficient to keep us with the upper threshold limit of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times.

What is the Synthesis Report

The UN's synthesis report provides an aggregate greenhouse gas effect of the 119 INDCs communicated by 147 Parties (representing 86 percent of the world's GHGs). Essentially it estimates where global emission levels will be in 2025 and 2030 if we implement the INDCs

Slowing growth of GHGs

The report shows that the number of countries reducing their emissions has increased radically as have the number of countries that have raised their climate ambitions:
"Compared with global emissions in 1990, 2000 and 2010, 11 global aggregate emission levels resulting from the INDCs are expected to be higher by 34 – 46 per cent in 2025 and 37 – 52 per cent in 2030 in relation to the global emission level in 1990; 29 – 4 0 per cent in 2025 and 32 – 45 per cent in 2030 in relation to the global emission level in 2000; and 8 – 18 per cent in 2025 and 11 – 22 per cent in 2030 in relation to the global emission level in 2010. While these figures show that global emissions considerin g INDCs are expected to continue to grow until 2025 and 2030, the growth is expected to slow down substantially , to 11 – 23 per cent in the 2010 – 2030 period compared with 24 per cent in the 1990 – 2010 period . The relative rate of growth in emissions in the 2010 – 2030 period is expected to be 10 – 57 per cent lower than that over the period 1990 – 2010, reflecting the impact of the INDCs."
Per capita emissions reductions are also expected to slow despite increasing population size. As stated in the report:
"Global average per capita emissions considering INDCs are expected to decline by 8 and 4 per cent by 2025 and by 9 and 5 per cent by 2030 compared with the levels in 1990 and 2010 , respectively . This is based on estimated g lobal average per capita emissions, considering INDCs, of 6.8 (6.5 – 7.1) t CO 2 eq/capita in 2025 and 6.7 (6.4 – 7.2) t CO 2 eq/capita in 2030. 13 Emissions in 2000 were approximately equal to expected per capita emission levels in 2030 (range: – 5 to +6 per cent) and 1 per cent above expected 2025 levels (range: – 3 to +5 per cent)" 

Not enough

Even with these emissions reduction efforts, ten and fifteen years from now (2025 or 2030), global emissions will still be rising. Although we are far better off with the INDCs than without, the level of pledges are still inadequate to keep us with the upper threshold limit. The report bluntly states:
"[W]hile actions enshrined in the INDCs will deliver sizeable emission reductions compared with the pre - 2020 period, global aggregate emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the INDCs do not fall within 2 °C scenarios...problems remain in relation to data gaps and quality of information submitted in the INDCs , showing that further efforts are needed to increase the capacity of many countries to plan, implement and monitor their climate - related actions...Compared with the emission levels consistent with the least - cost 2 ° C scenarios, 17 aggregate GHG emission levels resulting from the INDCs are expected to be higher by 8.7 (4.7 – 13.0) Gt CO 2 eq (19 per cent, range 10 – 29 per cent) in 2025 and by 15.1 (11.1 – 21.7) Gt CO 2 eq (35 per cent, range 26 – 59 per cent) in 2030...The estimated aggregate annual global emission levels resulting from the implementation of the INDCs do not fall within least - cost 2 °C scenarios by 2025 and 2030."

Global carbon budget

The current INDC pledges will no keep us from exceeding our global carbon budget. Even if we implement all the INDCs global emissions will be around 55 gigatons of carbon CO2 annually by 2025, and 57 gigatons by 2030. This represents an increase from about 48 gigatons in 2010.

As of 2011 the world only had about 1,000 gigatons left to emit in order to ensure a two-thirds or better chance of avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of warming.  This means that even if we implement the INDCs we will have burned three quarters of our carbon budget by 2030.  We will add 57 gigatons of emissions per year and by 2035 we will exceed our carbon budget that will push us past the upper threshold temperature limit.
Ramping up emissions reduction sooner or later

We are left with two options that must be addressed at COP21 in Paris. We can either ramp up emissions reduction sooner or stay with the current INDCs and radically increase emissions reductions after 2030. The later option would entail much higher costs. Once again from the report:
"Given the fact that GHGs are long - lived in the atmosphere and therefore cumulative emissions determine the impact on the climate system , higher emissions in the early years (compared with least - cost trajectories) would necessitate greater and more costly emission reductions later on in order to keep the global mean temperature rise below the same level with the same likelihood...If Parties were to not enhance mitigation action until 2030 beyond the action envisaged in the INDCs, the possibility of keeping the temperature increase below 2 °C still remains. However, the scenarios in the IPCC AR5 indicate that this could be achieved only at substantially higher annual emission reduction rates and cost compared with the least - cost scenarios that start today or in 2020. Therefore, much greater emission reductions effort than those associated with the INDCs will be required in the period after 2025 and 2030 to hold the temperature rise below 2 °C above pre - industrial levels."

Will and ability to address the problem

The all important question is whether there is sufficient will and the ability to address the shortfall. The report suggests that there is both the will and the ability to tackle the problem:
"The increasing determination of Parties to take national action to combat climate change together with an increasing national capacity to do so is clearly manifested through the significant number of Parties submitting INDCs and the enhanced scope of action...All Parties have raised the ambition of their climate action included in their INDCs compared with efforts communicated for the pre - 2020 period."

Government policies and legislation already in place

The report indicates that are already seeing government policies and legislation in many places that reflect the will to keep temperature increases within manageable levels:
"Information contained in the INDCs show s a clear and increasing trend towards introducing national policies and related instruments for low - emission and climate - resilient development. Many INDCs are already backed by existing national legislation or policies and several have triggered national processes to establish relevant policy frameworks...Information provided by Parties highlights the trend towards an increasing prominence of climate change on national political agendas , driven in many cases by interministerial coordination arrangements as well as by an increasing trend towards the mainstreaming of climate change in national and sectoral development priorities....Some also mentioned opportunities in the development and implementation of policy , economic and market - based instruments ."

Wide engagement

It is very important to engage the wider society  beyond government, and in may place this work has already begun: 
"Further more , many INDCs involved public consultation and the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders to demonstrate the development a l benefits of action to combat climate change and to secure the buy - in of such action ...[M]any Parties have made efforts to ensure that the private sector, civil society and other non - governmental actors recognize the importance of, and provide support for, national action to combat climate change."

Cooperative and collective efforts

 If we are to have a shot of reducing emissions and keeping temperatures within the upper limit, the report clearly states that nations will need to work together. The report further states that even the current INDCs support the existence of such a spirit of cooperation:
"The INDCs show an increasing interest of Parties in enhanced cooperation to achieve climate change goals collectively through a multilateral response and to raise ambition in the future... There is strong recognition of the need for enhanced global action in the context of achieving the objective of the Convention and of the commitment to doing so multilaterally. In this context, many Parties referred to the goal of limiting the temperature rise to below 2 °C above pre - industrial levels as a benchmark for guiding national and global ambition. Many countries expressed determination to achieve this goal and acknowledged that this would only be possible through collective efforts."

Further emissions reductions

Although the situation may look grim the report offers hope that we may be able to reduce emissions to stay within our carbon budget and keep temperatures from warming beyond the upper threshold limit:
"The INDCs signal, however, an increasing determination of Parties to take action to reduce emissions and increase the resilience of their economies, with a few Parties already indicating the aim to reduce their net emissions to zero in the longer term."

Click here to read the full Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the intended nationally determined contributions.

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