Bonn conference: current emission trends will lead to warmer world

IEA report foresees temperature increase under existing policies; developed countries not doing enough to close gap

By Uthra Radhakrishnan
Published: Thursday 13 June 2013

Meeting the 2-degree challenge for climate change is still feasible technically but extremely challenging, says the World Energy Outlook Special Report released at the climate change meeting currently underway in Bonn, Germany. In the report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) lays out an action plan for countries to ensure that staying within a global temperature increase of 2 degree Celsius does not go beyond our reach.

IEA 4-for-2 degree Celsius Scenario: four policy measures to keep the door to 2-degree open
  • Adopting specific energy efficiency measures – household emissions such as those from heating, cooling and lighting, motor systems in industry and road vehicle standards in transport sector (1.5 Gt in 2020)
  • Ensuring that new sub-critical coal-fired power plants are no longer built (reduce emissions by 640 Mt in 2020)
  • Methane releases into the atmosphere from the upstream oil and gas industry would be almost halved in 2020
  • Accelerated action towards a partial phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies (reduce CO2 emissions by 360 Mt)
Climate Analytics Tracker: Countries taking steps backwards
  • Canada appears to have vastly underestimated fugitive emissions from gas exploration in British Colombia, putting into question its entire emissions reporting, to the tune of up to 207 MtCO2eq by 2020.
  • The shale gas boom in the US may not be as good for its emissions profile as reports try to make it out to be, as there is an absence of reliable data on fugitive emissions. While domestic coal use is decreasing, cheap US coal exports to Europe are rising, competing with renewable – and ultimately making no difference to global emissions.
  • Japan’s coal use is also on the rise and a new target is likely to be significantly less than the current 25 per cent by 2020 target put forward by the previous government.
  • Changes in Queensland’s land clearance law put into question whether Australia can meet its already inadequate pledge – and its entire climate package is under doubt if a new government is elected in September.
Current policies insufficient

The report reminds us that the global energy emissions increased in 2012 by 1.4 per cent compared to 2011, pumping 31.2 billion tons of CO2-related emissions into the atmosphere.

It also points out that continuing with the same policies and structures in place would actually lead us to an increase in temperature somewhere between 3.6-5.3 degree Celsius in the long-term.

The report suggests policy measures (see Box 1) that will aid in capping temperature rise within 2 degree Celsius. The primary premise of this report, according to one of the lead authors, “…is its pragmatic approach and criteria used.

These options would lead to significant near-term reductions which will not harm economic growth in an already slumped economy since they do not incur net investment costs.

These options rely on already existing technologies and while they make good sense for governments to do anyway; they will also provide national benefits beyond just climate change.”

Also released at the Bonn conference was an update carried out by non-profit Climate Analytics.

This report takes into consideration earlier projections made by IEA and agrees that current emission trends will lead to a warmer world – a 40 per cent chance that temperature will increase by 4 degree Celsius by the end of the century.

While the IEA report cautiously provides optimism on ways to stay within the 2-degree limit, the Climate Analytics report touches base with current state of play on the ground. The report says that current policies and measures will not be sufficient to implement the pledges that countries have already put forth.

There is an important distinction to be made. While previous tracker reports put out by Climate Analytics assessed the mitigation gap based on an assumption that current pledges will be carried out, this report goes on to actually question whether countries’ policies are indeed in line with achieving the pledges they have put forward.

If no further policies are added, emissions will actually increase and not decrease to reduce the gap, the report finds.

North needs to do more

Another key message that comes out is that in order to reduce the “gap” as identified by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others, both developing and developed countries will need to do more.

However, an analysis of the existing pledges shows that developing countries are doing more than developed countries.

Developing country delegates, particularly those from the larger economies that have put forward pledges, are emphasizing the importance of their contributions and point to the lack of such from developed countries.

China, at an earlier intervention, pointed out how developed countries need to do their fair share to close the gap. According to them, if developed countries had done what they were supposed to do, there would be no gap in the first place.

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