The announcements made by the US and China, ahead of the Copenhagen conference on Climate Change to be held in December, are “sheer hype and hyperbole”, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The US spoke of an absolute emission reduction target of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, while China said it would reduce its energy intensity per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 40-45 per cent by 2020.
For the US, this translates into a mere 3 per cent reduction below the 1990 levels, while science demands that developed countries cut their emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels, notes Kushal Yadav, co-ordinator of the climate change programme at the CSE.
“In fact, the US proposal, if accepted, will sound the death knell for the Kyoto Protocol, which in its first commitment period (ending 2012) had asked for more — 5.2 per cent reduction over 1990 levels by all industrialised countries. The US is offering to do less than this in the next commitment, and this proposal, if accepted, will mean that the world cannot avoid catastrophic changes and climate change disasters,” adds Yadav.
Under the new proposal, the US will increase emissions, not reduce these as required by international agreements. The original Waxman-Markey Bill allows up to 1 billion tonnes of offset credits every year, meaning that the US, by using this huge amount of international offset, does not have to reduce emissions till 2026.
On China announcing a reduction in its energy intensity per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020, the CSE says that China’s emissions will continue to grow but at a slower rate. But how much is actually achieved will depend on the rate at which the Chinese economy grows. In other words, if the economy grows at 7 per cent per annum, then the emissions of China, after accounting for the 40-45 per cent energy intensity reduction target, will grow by 50 per cent over 2005 levels.
If the economy grows at 10 per cent per annum, then the emissions will increase by 150 per cent over 2005 levels. “Both the US emission reduction target and the Chinese energy intensity targets are, therefore, not a significant departure from business as usual. Worse, in the case of the US, this weak and meaningless proposal shows that it has reneged on its commitment, as the country has legally binding obligations under the multilateral agreement. This cannot be accepted,” states Yadav. “India must definitely be a deal-maker. But the deal must be to demand substantial reductions from the industrial countries, so that the world stays below the 2 degree target for temperature increase. India must make it clear that it is already doing its best through the National Action Plan on Climate Change and is prepared to do much more provided the world creates the framework, which will pay for the costly transition to a low carbon economy,” concludes Yadav.