The G8 big boys have been in Italy in the last week, sending their trophy wives off on a tour of unremediated earthquake rubble in high heels, while they them-besuited-selves got on with the business of smiling for the cameras, warmly shaking unwashed hands and talking nonsense.
There was a much reported target-setting of reducing Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 80%. But there were several qualifiers on this promise, and I don’t think it’s going to look like what they claim it will (and neither does George Monbiot).
So what’s the cut ? Is that 80% of 2009 emissions ? Or 80% of 1990 emissions which is a much smaller figure ?
And what emissions would we be left with ? 20% of 1990 emissions ? That would be around 4.5 billion tonnes. Or today’s emissions less 80% of 1990 emissions ? That would be around 13.8 billion tonnes, a much more lax target, I think you would agree.
“Increasing global CO2 emissions: increasing trend halved in 2008 : In 2008 global CO2 emissions increased by 1.7%, compared to 3.3% in 2007. Since 2002, the annual average increase was 3.8%. Increasing emissions from China and India accounted for about 45% and 10% of the change. On the other hand, the USA and EU-15 contributed about 20% and 5% to the mitigation of the global increase. Global CO2 emissions increased from 16.3 billion metric tonnes in 1970 to 22.3 billion tonnes in 1990 and 31.6 billion in 2008. This represents a 41% increase since 1990.”
80% of 1990 Carbon Dioxide emissions = 17.8 billion tonnes
20% of 1990 Carbon Dioxide emissions = 4.5 billion tonnes
80% of 2008 Carbon Dioxide emissions = 25.3 billion tonnes
20% of 2008 Carbon Dioxide emissions = 6.3 billion tonnes
“G8 agrees to climate targets despite differences with developing nations : Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliott : guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 July 2009 21.50 BST : The Group of Eight industrialised economies, including America, today agreed for the first time that they must limit worldwide temperature rises to no more than 2C, but failed to reach agreement with developing nations on how that should be achieved – a disappointment to those expecting Barack Obama to break a decade long deadlock. The G8, representing the richest nations, also agreed for the first time that it should collectively cut emissions by 80% by 2050, and that the world should be able to cut its emissions by 50% by the same date. In a fudge designed to recognise the difficulties different rich countries will face in meeting this target, the agreed G8 communique released at the L’Aquila summit set a fuzzy baseline for their 80% cut “of 1990 or more later years”. The communique also acknowledges baselines may vary but “efforts must be comparable”. UN scientists have used 1990 as the starting point, but the US and Japan have been using 2005 levels. A cap on global warming of 2C is seen as the minimum to prevent irreversible global warming…”
“The rich can relax. We just need the poor world to cut emissions. By 125% : British and G8 climate strategy just doesn’t add up. As soon as serious curbs are needed it turns into impossible nonsense : George Monbiot : guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 July 2009 21.00 BST :
Well, at least that clears up the mystery. Over the past year I’ve been fretting over an intractable contradiction. The government has promised spectacular cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It is also pushing through new roads and runways, approving coal-burning power stations, bailing out car manufacturers and ditching regulations for low-carbon homes. How can these policies be reconciled? We will find out tomorrow, when it publishes a series of papers on carbon reduction. According to one person who has read the drafts, the new policies will include buying up to 50% of the reduction from abroad. If this is true, it means that the UK will not cut its greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, as the government promised. It means it will cut them by 40%. Offsetting half our emissions (which means paying other countries to cut them on our behalf) makes a mockery of the government’s climate change programme. The figure might have changed between the draft and final documents, but let’s take it at face value for the moment, to see what happens when rich nations offload their obligations. What I am about to explain is the simple mathematical reason why any large-scale programme of offsets is unjust, contradictory and ultimately impossible. Last week the G8 summit adopted the UK’s two key targets : it proposed that developed countries should reduce their greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050 to prevent more than two degrees of global warming. This meant that it also adopted the UK’s key contradiction, as there is no connection between these two aims. An 80% cut is very unlikely to prevent two degrees of warming; in fact it’s not even the right measure, as I’ll explain later on. But let’s work out what happens if the other rich nations adopt both the UK’s targets and its draft approach to carbon offsets.
“MEF Statement on the Economy and Climate Change : The meetings in MEF format have approved the statement by the leaders of the Major Economies Forum countries on energy and the climate change issue, which has been described as one of the major challenges of our day. Reasserting the targets and principles set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and citing the statement adopted in Toyako, Japan, in July last year, the MEF leaders have agreed C02 emission reduction targets setting out to halve them by 2050, and a commitment to restricting global warming to 2 degrees Centigrade. Particular attention must be paid to the poor and developing countries, which must be brought into the process of fighting climate change, not least via aid that fosters their development and the adoption of environment-compatible technologies.”
“65. We reaffirm the importance of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and notably of its Fourth Assessment Report, which constitutes the most comprehensive assessment of the science. We recognise the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C. Because this global challenge can only be met by a global response, we reiterate our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognising that this implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter. As part of this, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 or more recent years. Consistent with this ambitious long-term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary and that efforts need to be comparable. Similarly, major emerging economies need to undertake quantifiable actions to collectively reduce emissions significantly below business-as-usual by a specified year.”