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Governments set world on more than 3°C warming, still playing with numbers

4th September 2012

Governments are still set to send global temperatures above 3°C by 2100, even though their agreed warming limit of 2°C is still technically possible, scientists said today.

In releasing their latest update at the Bangkok UN climate talks, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a joint project of Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute, said that it is still technically possible to meet the limit of a 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels - or lower. 

The Climate Action Tracker has analysed the effect of actions to curb the low hanging fruit of “non-C02” gases such as black carbon and HFC’s.  While it’s important to take action on these gases, they are “totally insufficient” on their own to limit warming.  

There is also pressure to get all countries to pledge to cut emissions, but the scientists have found this wouldn’t make enough of a difference in terms of curbing warming. Analysis shows that it’s not the number of governments making pledges that will make the difference here, it’s the size of the pledges already on the table. We’re not facing a ‘participation gap’ here – it’s an ambition gap

The CAT analysis of Canada’s latest “Emissions Trends Report” has found that, in a number of different ways, the statistics presented by the Canadian Government don’t add up to the claims it has made and that a number of open questions remain unanswered.

  • While the Government claims that Canada is “halfway” toward meeting its pledge, the figures show that it’s actually only one third of the way there compared to current emissions levels.
  • Canada has started factoring in LULUCF (Land use, land use change and forestry) to its emissions projections.  They do however not provide full clarity on which accounting rules they are going to use in the future, leaving huge uncertainty.
  • Canada has been using current data and measuring it against old projections, which makes its data look better, but does nothing for the climate.
  • It has also begun using a methodology previously only used by developing countries: measuring against Business as Usual (BAU) projections.  But it uses old BAU projections, but even then its pledge is only equal to Mexico’s pledge, with Brazil doing better. 

Other key points in the briefing:

Kyoto or not Kyoto? AAU surplus counted, rules urgently required

There is an urgent need to sort out rules for AAU’s for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.  While the EU has been clear about its commitment, and Canada, the US and Japan clear about their lack of it, there is a high degree of uncertainty around whether Australia, New Zealand, Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine will join. 

There would be a large number of surplus AAU’s around if these countries came back into Kyoto, but it would send an important political signal towards an agreement under the ADP in 2015 the analysis finds. It would reinforce the importance of the robust accounting system under the Kyoto Protocol. Clarity over the future of these AAU’s is urgently needed and good proposals to do so are on the table. It now is a question of adopting one.

Australia, Switzerland, spell out conditions

At a time when governments have been asked to remove conditions and increase their pledges to close the ambition gap, at least two countries, Australia and Switzerland, have listed new conditions (page 7 of briefing). 

The EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive weak, disappointing

The EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) is “significantly less ambitious” than eaerlier versions, representing a lost opportunity to reach its energy efficiency pledge or to achieve more ambitious GHG reductions in 2030 and beyond.  The EU has already nearly achieved its 20% by 2020 target, yet the possibility of increasing that target remains remote.


Download the full briefing and the press release here.