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Missed Deadline for Carbon Reduction Promises Could Have Consequences

Without enough commitments Paris climate conference could face trouble

2 min read
Missed Deadline for Carbon Reduction Promises Could Have Consequences
Illustration: Getty Images

Countries responsible for about 60 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have not met the UN deadline to file their opening offers to reduce their C02 output. This ahead of an important global climate change conference later this year.

In December, representatives from 196 countries will meet in Paris to discuss an international agreement to cut global CO2 emissions. There are fears that if too many countries wait until the last minute to make initial offers it could undermine the effectiveness of this conference, just as it did the 2009 conference in Copenhagen.

Australia, Brazil, Japan India and Canada missed the UN deadline. It was only meant to be a loose deadline, however. At the 2013 Warsaw Climate Change Conference it was agreed that only countries “ready to do so” would submit their plans before the end of the first quarter of 2015.

China the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas also did not pledge by the deadline. Beijing, though, publicly outlined its proposals last November. In a joint pledge with the United States, President Xi Jinping, said that China’s CO2 output will peak by 2030, or earlier if possible. Previously, China had agreed only to reduce its rapid rise in emissions.

President Xi also promised that China would increase its use of energy from zero-emission sources to 20 percent.

The United States, Russia, Mexico, the 28 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland all made their pledges ahead of the UN deadline. The United States repeated its November pledge—a 26 to 28 percent reduction from its 2005 output by 2025. Russia said it would cut its 1990 output 25 percent by 2030. The EU repeated its 40 percent target, also by 2030, and Switzerland’s offer was 50 percent. Mexico became the first developing nation to offer a pledge—30 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050.The 1997 Kyoto Protocol required pollution reductions only in industrialized nations and set no limits for developing nations.

The thirty three countries who met the UN deadline produce more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

China has said it will to make a formal submission by mid-2015, India no earlier than June, and Brazil sometime before October. Japan, Australia and Canada have yet to indicate when they will submit their plans. The thought is that some countries will wait to see what others do before revealing their hand. Canada withdrew from the Kyoto agreement in 2011, Australian environment minister Greg Hunt is a vocal critic of climate change science, and Japan has said it are not yet in a position to make forecasts following the Fukushima disaster.

The UN is set to report in October on the total cuts offered. The cuts are not expected to be high enough to keep global warning below two degrees Celsius, the figure enshrined in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord as the threshold of dangerous human interference with the climate.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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