US and China reduction targets: smokescreen of numbers
US target allows absolute emissions to grow even after 2020.
Is a violation of the agreement under
- New Chinese target is business as usual
- Chinese target is voluntary and part of its domestic plan
- India and other developing countries must continue to insist on drastic action by industrialised countries
- No reason to show ‘flexibility’ to kill the Kyoto Protocol
New Delhi, November 27, 2009: The hype surrounding the just announced emissions reduction targets of the United States and China is just that: hype and hyperbole, says Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “The spin-masters are at work to show that US and
US proposal is meaningless
The US has announced an absolute reduction target of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. This translates into a mere 3% reduction below the 1990 levels. Science demands that the developed countries cut their emission by 40% below 1990 levels. In fact, the US proposal if accepted is a death-knell for the Kyoto Protocol, which in its first commitment period (ending 2012) had asked for more – 5.2 per cent reduction over 1990 levels by all industrialized countries. US is offering to do less than this in the next commitment, and this proposal, if accepted will mean that the world cannot avoid catastrophic changes and climate change disasters.
US will not cut domestically: substantial offsets allowed
The proposal allows for huge amounts of international offsets to be used to meet the target. In other words, under the new proposal, which its Nobel Prize winning president has just announced, his country will actually increase emissions, not reduce these as required by international agreement. The original Waxman-Markey bill allows up to 1 billion tonnes of offset credits every year. This means that the country as a whole, using this huge amount of international offset, does not have to reduce emissions till 2026
US targets are domestic and will kill the multilateral agreement
Worse, the US targets remain domestic targets and they are not under a multi-lateral legally binding agreement. This is also part of the US strategy on climate change – to kill the Kyoto Protocol and to work towards a single agreement, post Copenhagen, based on a pledge and review system.
China targets are business as usual in terms of total emissions
Yesterday China announced its energy intensity target for 2020. Under this, China plans to reduce its energy intensity per unit of gross domestic product by 40-45% by 2020. What this means is that China’s emissions will continue to grow but at a slower rate but how much is actually achieved will depend on the rate at which the Chinese economy grows. In other words, if the economy grows at 7 per cent per annum, then the emissions of China, after accounting for the 40-45 per cent energy intensity reduction target will grow by 50 per cent over 2005 levels. If the economy grows at 10 per cent per annum, then the emissions will increase by 150 per cent over 2005 levels.
The International Energy Agency’s 2009 World Energy Outlook predicted that under a business-as-usual scenario, Chinese emissions would grow by about 88 per cent between 2005 to 2020. Therefore, this energy intensity by GDP target of 40-45 per cent reduction by 2020 means emission reduction is not much more significant than business-as-usual.
But still China will do more than the US
China had already announced that it would cut energy intensity per unit of GDP by 20 per cent by 2020. Now it has doubled its target. Analysts studying China explain that this will require the country to take hard steps to restructure its industrial growth to reduce and cut emissions. If this is the case than China would have done much more to reduce the energy intensity of its economy and reduced emissions, than the US, which is proposing to do little domestically and make up most of its meagre target by buying cheap offsets from the developing world.
India needs to do more domestically but should not be ‘flexible’ about killing Kyoto Protocol
In no way do these ‘new’ targets put pressure on India to commit to any reduction target as many observers have suggested. The current Indian per capita emission is 1.1 per tonne. For US this figure is more than 20 tonnes. India’s energy intensity by unit of GDP has reduced from 0.3 kgoe per US$ GDP in PPP terms in 1980 to 0.16 kgoe currently. This is already lower than US and China and is comparable to Germany.
Both the US emission reduction target and the Chinese energy intensity targets are therefore, not a significant departure from business as usual. Worse, in the case of the US, as this country has legally binding obligations under the multilateral agreement, this weak and meaningless proposal shows that it has reneged on its commitment. This cannot be accepted.
India must definitely be a deal-maker. But the deal must be to demand substantial reductions from the industrial countries so that the world stays below the 2° target for temperature increase.