Mind the Gap: Paris Analysis Shows Domestic Pledges Can Peak Emissions in 2020s, Get Halfway to 2 Degrees

By Nigel Purvis and Maria Belenky
Climate & Energy, Political Strategy, Transformative Analysis

As the world looks from Lima to Paris, all eyes are on the domestic pledges nations are expected to put forward over the next months. But how far will these pledges go to meet the global goal of 2°C?

A new Climate Advisers analysis finds that just domestic pledges could represent an unprecedented step forward: they could account for up to half of the emissions reduction the world needs through 2030, and essentially keep global emissions flat through the 2020s. That assumes relatively strong pledges from the nations yet to put forward their goals, but is entirely without taking into account what more can be achieved through international finance, international mitigation partnerships or other agreements that could close the gap still further.

mindthegap-chart

Our take: 1) this indicates that the 2°C pathway remains a relevant, feasible goal; and 2) the next year before Paris must include serious discussion of international mitigation partnerships.

Whereas the emissions gap analysis released recently by UNEP forecasted a continuation of existing trends and policies, Climate Advisers analyzed recent pledges by the E.U., U.S. and China. In addition, we made reasonable predictions about what other countries might pledge.

Key Findings

Based on known and anticipated domestic pledges, the Paris agreement could achieve up to half (48-50%) of the emissions reduction necessary to reach 2°C.

  • This is the case if the countries that have not yet announced their plans put forward relatively strong pledges, within the bounds of their current politics. In the stronger pledge scenario, global GHGs reach 55.3 Gt CO2e in 2025 and 55.5 Gt CO2e in 2030, essentially flattening out by the last half of the decade. This compares to an emissions growth rate of about 1 Gt CO2e per year (2.3%) for the last decade. In this scenario, slowing emissions growth in the first half of the decade, which results from declining emissions in the OECD countries and in the world’s two largest tropical forest countries, is more than balanced out by increasing emission from the rest of the developing world. In the second half-decade through 2030, emissions continue to decline in the OECD countries and emissions growth slows in China and other middle-income countries; Brazil and Indonesia achieve their deforestation reduction commitments; and emissions growth continues in India and in the least developed countries.
  • If the countries that have not yet announced their plans put forward relatively weak pledges, it would result in only a small reduction from Business-as-Usual. In this scenario, if many nations do less than we predict in our stronger pledge case, Paris could fall short of the half way mark.

International mitigation partnerships should be pursued in Paris to close the remaining gap.

  • The pledges analyzed above are all exclusively what countries are able to accomplish based on domestic reductions, without international cooperation or bilateral or multilateral agreements.
  • There are many such possible partnerships, including mechanisms to reduce and end deforestation and plans to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • In an upcoming analysis, Climate Advisers will work with its partners to identify specific international mitigation partnership options that individual countries can pursue to close the gap.

The white paper supporting these findings is available online.

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On December 5, 2014

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