It’s the final day of COP15. Obama addressed the talks this morning, saying: “There is no time to waste. … We must choose action over inaction; the future over the past.” Negotiations are still deadlocked, though, and a deal is far from certain.
Here’s a run down of what’s on the negotiating table and what issues remain stumbling blocks.
Emissions cuts: A leaked U.N. document shows that a huge gap remains between the amount of emissions cuts that nations have pledged thus far and what is needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C – a level scientists say would be a tipping point for runaway climate change.
Obama has committed the U.S. to a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, which equals merely a 4% reduction based on 1990 levels, which has long been the benchmark year used to account for emissions reduction. The E.U. has pledge to reduce its emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, 30% if other leading emitters boost their commitments. China and India have pledged to reduce their economies’ carbon intensity – a ratio between economic growth and emissions produced. China has committed to a 40 – 45% reduction, India to 24%.
Poor and low-lying nations have demanded significant increases in rich nations’ pledges and argued that temperature rise should be kept below 1.5°C.
Ambassador Dessima Williams of Grenada, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said today: "The fact that more than a hundred countries are calling for global warming to be limited to less than 1.5°C shatters the mythology that 2°C is an acceptable target, and instead highlights the broad consensus that climate mitigation goals should be based on up-to-date climate science."
It’s very unlikely that additional offers will be made. The E.U. might unilaterally increase its commitment to 30% but don’t expect the U.S. to increase its commitment. Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham recently lowered the emissions target in a proposed climate bill that they are pushing.
China and India are unlikely to boost their targets either, arguing that under the Kyoto Protocol, developing economies need only agree to voluntary targets and the historic responsibility of climate change rests squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. and the big E.U. nations.
Financing: Even the most modest goals for short- and long-term financing of poor and developing countries remain unmet. In order for developing economies to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, developed countries need to pledge billions of dollars in the short term and several billions of dollars a year by 2020.