Upward revision of greenhouse gas emission projections increases prospect of greater temperature rise

May 1st, 2012 by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

(click report cover to go to download page)

The United Nations climate negotiations in Cancún in 2010 and earlier in Copenhagen in 2009, called for urgent action to limit global warming to 2° Celsius.

In order to reach this climate goal, 42 industrialised countries submitted quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets for 2020, and 45 developing countries submitted nationally appropriate mitigation actions. All these pledges have been anchored in the Cancún Agreements.

Since the negotiations in Cancún, developing countries have provided additional information, especially on projected emission levels without climate policy (business-as-usual emissions).

The report, Analysing the Emission Gap, conducted at the request of the European Commission and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, analyses the effect of the pledges submitted by Parties in the Cancún Agreements on the emission gap, taking into account all the new information available.

It pays specific attention to uncertainties and risks and provides a detailed description of the emission implications of the pledges and actions by the 12 largest emitting countries and regions.

Upward revisions of business-as-usual emission projections of developing countries have led to higher emission levels expected from pledges by developing countries. To have a likely chance of limiting global warming to 2° Celsius, the 2020 global emission gap could be about 5 to 9 gigaton (billion metric tons) CO2 equivalent, which is 2.5 gigaton CO2 equivalent higher than in our earlier assessment. Several uncertainties, mainly related to accounting rules of surplus emissions and business-as-usual emission projections, together, could result in a global emission level close to that of the PBL The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency business-as-usual projections for 2020.

A selected set of options could result in an additional emission reduction of 4.1 gigaton CO2 equivalent, which would narrow the emission gap towards achieving the 2° Celsius goal.

A closer look at the individual pledges by the ten largest emitting economies reveals that the uncertainty regarding China’s pledge is very large and national business-as-usual emission projections of countries, generally, are much higher than the PBL business-as-usual emission projections.


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