Developed countries face tough questions on emissions reduction

Inadequacy of targets and discrepancies in reporting highlighted at the first multilateral review of Annexe I parties

By Arjuna Srinidhi
Published: Wednesday 10 December 2014

Photo courtesy: IISD/ENB

The first ever multilateral review of contributions by developed countries was conducted at the COP 20 in Lima. Sixteen countries and the European Union participated in the session, the objectives of which were to improve transparency and discuss the progress on their 2020 targets for emission reduction.

The review was based on biennial reports submitted by Annexe I parties (developed countries) on emissions reduction. As part of the review process, each party delivered a presentation on their quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets and responded to queries from other parties.
The European Union (EU) presented its progress on decoupling of emissions from economic growth. China was, however, critical of the EU’s presentation due to its conditional 2020 targets that are based on comparable commitments from other developed countries and also “adequate” contributions from developing countries.

The US discussed in detail issues that are helping it reduce emissions such as energy efficiency measures, switching from coal to natural gas and increasing renewable energy capacity. It also outlined its plan to achieve 17 per cent reduction by 2020 over 2005 levels. South Africa questioned the US on the adequacy of its 2020 target, especially considering the different base year it uses (all other countries report emission reduction over 1990 levels). It was also questioned for using IPCC AR2 metrics for reporting its gas emissions. This can give a particularly incorrect picture with regard to methane emissions since the global warming potential of methane has been revised in subsequent IPCC reports.

Sweden showed exceptional progress towards its 2020 targets as it has already reduced emissions to 22 per cent below 1990 levels as of 2012. It is also well on track to reach 40 per cent reduction by 2020.

While the first multilateral assessment did provide an encouraging picture for a transparent evaluation of the progress, the process attracted criticism for not involving civil society organisations and research institutes. These organisations only had space to observe the proceedings from the rear of the hall, with no opportunity to contribute to the discussions. It was felt that their expertise and perspectives would have provided valuable inputs to help further strengthen the transparency of the review process.

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