Press releases

Governments set world on more than 3°C warming, still playing with numbers – Climate Action Tracker

Published: 04/09/2012

Bangkok, 04 September 2012—Governments are still set to send global temperatures above 3°C by 2100, even though their agreed warming limit of 2°C is still technically possible, scientists said today. In releasing their latest update at the Bangkok UN climate talks, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a joint project of Climate Analytics, Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute, said that it is still technically possible to meet the limit of a 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels - or lower.

“If Governments take no further action beyond current pledges within the context of the UN climate process, the global mean temperature will increase by as much as 2.6 - 4.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100,” said Bill Hare, Director of Climate Analytics.

“Evidence clearly shows that it is a question of political will - not technological feasibility – as to whether 2°C is ‘out the window’ as some commentators are saying,” he said.

The Climate Action Tracker has analysed the effect of actions to curb the low hanging fruit of “non-C02” gases such as black carbon and HFC’s. While it’s important to take action on these gases, they are “totally insufficient” on their own to limit warming.

There is also pressure to get all countries to pledge to cut emissions, but the scientists have found this wouldn’t make enough of a difference in terms of curbing warming. “Our analysis shows that it’s not the number of governments making pledges that will make the difference here, it’s the size of the pledges already on the table. We’re not facing a ‘participation gap’ here – it’s an ambition gap,” said Niklas Höhne, Director of Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys. Meanwhile, it seems that a number of countries have been playing with numbers – in particular Canada (page 8 of briefing).

The CAT analysis of Canada’s latest “Emissions Trends Report” has found that, in a number of different ways, the statistics presented by the Canadian Government don’t add up to the claims it has made and that a number of open questions remain unanswered.

  • While the Government claims that Canada is “halfway” toward meeting its pledge, the figures show that it’s actually only one third of the way there compared to current emissions levels.
  • Canada has started factoring in LULUCF (Land use, land use change and forestry) to its emissions projections. They do however not provide full clarity on which accounting rules they are going to use in the future, leaving huge uncertainty.
  • Canada has been using current data and measuring it against old projections, which makes its data look better, but does nothing for the climate.
  • It has also begun using a methodology previously only used by developing countries: measuring against Business as Usual (BAU) projections. But it uses old BAU projections, but even then its pledge is only equal to Mexico’s pledge, with Brazil doing better.

“The methodology Canada uses in its report suggests the government is implementing actual decarbonisation policies – but in fact the improvements are largely an artifact of accounting rules,” said Marion Vieweg, policy analyst with Climate Analytics.

Meanwhile, in the 2011 projections, tar sands accounted for 92 MtCO2e of Canadian emissions, representing 46% of the oil and gas sector. The new projections increase expected emissions from tar sands to 104 MtCO2e, 51% of the sector’s emissions: up from a share of only 20% in 2005. “Measures to prevent the increase in emissions from tar sands could lead to Canada almost achieving its pledge,” said Vieweg.

Other key points in the briefing:

Kyoto or not Kyoto? AAU surplus counted, rules urgently required

There is an urgent need to sort out rules for AAU’s for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period. While the EU has been clear about its commitment, and Canada, the US and Japan clear about their lack of it, there is a high degree of uncertainty around whether Australia, New Zealand, Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine will join.

“Clearly there would be a large number of surplus AAU’s around if these countries came back into Kyoto, but it would send an important political signal towards an agreement under the ADP in 2015,” said Marion Vieweg.

“It would reinforce the importance of the robust accounting system under the Kyoto Protocol. Clarity over the future of these AAU’s is urgently needed and good proposals to do so are on the table. It now is a question of adopting one.”

Australia, Switzerland, spell out conditions
At a time when governments have been asked to remove conditions and increase their pledges to close the ambition gap, at least two countries, Australia and Switzerland, have listed new conditions (page 7 of briefing).

“While Governments like Australia say they want everyone to increase their pledges, having conditions on their own pledge actually decreases the likelihood of its achievement,” said Vieweg.

The EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive weak, disappointing
The EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) is “significantly less ambitious” than eaerlier versions, representing a lost opportunity to reach its energy efficiency pledge or to achieve more ambitious GHG reductions in 2030 and beyond. The EU has already nearly achieved its 20% by 2020 target, yet the possibility of increasing that target remains remote.

Contacts in Bangkok
Marion Vieweg, Policy Analyst, Climate Analytics: + 66 823 639 829
Bill Hare, Director, Climate Analytics: +49 160 9086 2463
Niklas Höhne, Director Energy and Climate Policy of Ecofys: +49 162 101 3420

The Climate Action Tracker is an independent science-based assessment that tracks the emission commitments and actions of countries. It is a joint project of the following organisations:

Climate Analytics
Climate Analytics is a non-profit organization based in Potsdam, Germany. It has been established to synthesize climate science and policy research that is relevant for international climate policy negotiations. It aims to provide scientific, policy and analytical support for Small Island States (SIDS) and the least developed country group (LDCs) negotiators, as well as non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders in the ‘post-2012’ negotiations. Furthermore, it assists in building in-house capacity within SIDS and LDCs.

Ecofys – Experts in Energy
Established in 1984 with the vision of achieving “sustainable energy for everyone”, Ecofys has become the leading expert in renewable energy, energy & carbon efficiency, energy systems & markets as well as energy & climate policies. The unique synergy between those areas of expertise is the key to its success. Ecofys creates smart, effective, practical and sustainable solutions for and with public and corporate clients all over the world. With offices in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and the US, Ecofys employs over 250 experts dedicated to solving energy and climate challenges.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
The PIK conducts research into global climate change and issues of sustainable development. Set up in 1992, the Institute is regarded as a pioneer in interdisciplinary research and as one of the world's leading establishments in this field. Scientists, economists and social scientists work together, investigating how the earth is changing as a system, studying the ecological, economic and social consequences of climate change, and assessing which strategies are appropriate for sustainable development.