Emission goals in Brazil, China on target for 2020: report

Updated: 2014-11-24 04:59

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York and PU ZHENDONG in Beijing(China Daily Latin America)

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Brazil and China are on track to meet their emission-reduction goals by the end of the decade, according to new data from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The European Union, India and Russia join Brazil and China as the global players expected to meet projections ahead of 2020, while other leading countries need to implement more measures to curb their emissions projections, the report said.

“Linking development policies with climate mitigation will help countries build the energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational changes," Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, said in a statement on Nov 19.

Emissions Gap Report 2014 estimates that emissions need to drop 15 percent or more by 2030 in order to stay in line with the 2 degrees Celsius limit established in 2010 by the UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico. UNEP defines an emission gap as the difference between the projected emission levels in 2025 and 2030.

China has started pilot emission-trading programs in seven provinces and municipalities and has drafted a climate-change law. An emission-trading program is a market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives.

The high end of the UNEP estimate says that by 2020, China could reduce greenhouse-gas emission intensity, or its average emission rate based on production volumes, by up to 40 percent.

Improved estimates and the advent of new emission-based legislation have helped Brazil make progress on sector-based emission plans, the UNEP said.

The UNEP report shows that a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia, are “likely to require further action and/or purchased offsets to meet their pledges".

Since 1990, global greenhouse-gas emissions have grown by more than 45 percent, based on UNEP data.

UNEP findings state that the global emission guardrails that would provide a chance of staying within the limit include "a peaking of emissions within the next 10 years; a halving of all greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century; and in the second half of the century, carbon neutrality followed by net zero total greenhouse-gas emissions."

Net zero emission scenarios imply no input from human activity, where any remaining CO2 emissions would be negated by carbon dioxide uptake, or "negative emissions".

China’s State Council announced plans to cap its annual energy use equivalent at 4.8 billion metric tons of standard coal by 2020 in an effort to cut carbon emissions, according to the Energy Development Strategy Action Plan (2014-2020) published on Nov 19.

The report also detailed moves to cut coal's share of the country's overall energy mix to 62 percent from 67 percent and raise non-fossil fuel consumption to more than 15 percent.

Steiner, who also serves as the UN’s undersecretary general, said early action on climate-change initiatives could ease pressure on the current goals.

"Countries are giving increasing attention to where they realistically need to be by 2025, 2030 and beyond in order to limit a global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius," Steiner said.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said on Nov 18 that China’s efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions are a welcomed sign from a “constructive leader" in climate change.

"It is to the Chinese government's credit that they have understood investing in a low-carbon development model is not just for the well-being of Chinese people but also for the Chinese economy," Figueres told China Daily last week in Beijing.

The UNEP forecast, released just a few weeks ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru (Dec 1-12), calls for global carbon neutrality to be reached between 2055 and 2070.

Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute (WRI), said in a press release on Nov 19: "Negotiating a global climate deal should not be based on emotions or political whims; it should be driven by science and facts. With the growing momentum for global climate action, we have the opportunity to close the emissions gap and keep [it] within the limits of what science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change."

China intends to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by around 2030 and will make its best efforts to do so sooner, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama said in a joint statement in Beijing on Nov 12.

Obama announced a new target to cut US greenhouse-gas emissions between 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, improving its previous pledge of 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

"It has encouraged other countries to redouble efforts of domestic analysis on their contributions," Figueres said. “On a political level, it also gives a very positive tone to the upcoming negotiations."

Contact the writers at jackfreifelder@chinadailyusa.com and puzhendong@chinadaily.com.cn