Are developed countries' pledges on emission reduction really 'significant'?

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 13, 2009
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The Kyoto Protocol has obliged the developed countries to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So far, most developed countries have put forward their midterm reduction targets, with the European Union, Japan and the United States calling them "ambitious", "notable" and "significant". Are they really so?

First, let's have a look at the EU. The 27-nation bloc has pledged to only cut emissions from 2013 to 2020 by 20 percent from 1990 levels, which translate to an annual reduction rate of only 1.05 percent, even less than half of its commitment in the first commitment period of 2008-2012, when it was committed to cut emissions by 8 percent from 1990 levels, with an annual reduction rate of 2.48 percent.

Even if the EU would finally raise its reduction rate to 30 percent for the 2013-2020 period, the annual reduction rate will be 1.93 percent, still lower than its commitment in the first commitment period and far from being "significant" or "notable."

Then, take a glance at Japan. Compared with its predecessor, the current Japanese government seems to have adopted a more active attitude in tackling climate change as they have promised to cut emissions by 2020 by 25 percent from 1990 levels.

However, its commitment is ridden with problems and the main one is that has attached strings to its reduction target, demanding that the United States and some developing countries get involved in the emission reduction drive.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the developed countries and developing countries shoulder "common but differentiated responsibilities" for climate change.

Moreover, given the fact that the United State does not intend to join the Kyoto Protocol and thus has no intention to accept any quantifiable emission reduction target, Japan's pledge is seen as a vain promise.

As to the United States, its "ambitious" pledge of a 17-percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 is just striking in appearance.

In fact, the 17-percent reduction is only equal to 4-percent reduction from the 1990 levels. The figure can hardly be regarded as "remarkable" or "notable."

As a matter of fact, the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions continued to grow even though it has long completed industrialization. According to statistics from UNFCCC, the U.S. emissions grew by 16 percent from 1990 to 2005.

Above all, the developed countries' "ambitious" pledges are actually insignificant reduction targets, conditional pledges or vain promises, which have, as expected, sparked great discontent among the developing countries, which urge the developed countries to raise the reduction target to 40 percent from the 1990 levels.

At the ongoing climate change conference in Copenhagen, negotiations for a new agreement have been extremely difficult, and this has a lot to do with the developed countries' reluctance to commit to real significant reduction targets.

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