Today in Copenhagen the UNFCCC secretariat released its periodic summary of the ‘pledges’ of Annex I countries to reduce their emissions in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. So far, in terms of the future of the planet, the picture does not look good. Very little has changed since Barcelona, the last time the assessment was done.
The only significant change has been an increase in Russia’s pledge by 10%, which is not very significant since it still involves an increase in their current emissions levels (the target is specified in relation to 1990, and their emissions collapsed dramatically after that in the wake of the economic collapse which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union). As a result, all Annex I countries (assuming the US, who is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, manages to implement currently tabled legislation) are currently planning to cut their emissions by less than 25% in relation to 1990 levels, which, taken with current offers from developing countries, would put us on a path which would see a global temperature RISE of 3.5 degrees C, way above the ‘safe’ level, which is now being reassessed by many climate analysts as 1.5 deg C rather than the more commonly-endorsed 2 degree target. There is currently no foreseeable way in which this level of ambition will be increased at present, without which developing countries will be unwilling to commit to taking significant mitigation actions of their own. Even this limited target will be met by developed countries offsetting some of these reductions in developing countries.