Report reveals insufficiency of submitted country pledges towards COP21

Eiffel Tower Paris France Eiffel Tower Paris Credit: Denna, MorgueFile

As part of the preparation for the post-2015 global climate deal, countries from across the world have been asked to submit so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). In other words, countries are to publically disclose what post-2020 climate actions they intend to undertake as part of the new agreement. The sum of INDCs would therefore provide us with a good indication of the level of ambition of the post-2015 deal as well as whether the world is set on the right path to limiting global temperature rise to 2°C.

A number of countries have already submitted their pledges, but the important question being asked now is: What do these mean for the global carbon budget and keeping within safe levels of global warming?

The IEA on 15 June 2015 released a new report which assesses the impact of the submitted pledges on energy and temperature trends. The report reveals that the sum of submitted INDCs would contribute little towards a successful outcome at COP 21 in Paris. More specifically, the report finds that with the current pledges the world is headed towards a temperature increase of 3.5°C after 2200, which would translate into higher average temperatures over land of around 4.3°C.

It is clear that such a scenario entails significant implications for a country like Australia, who is yet to submit its climate pledge. In an issues paper, the Australian government recently considered the setting of its post-2020 emission reduction target based on an average temperature rise of 3.6°C. This disastrous level of warming corresponds to the IEA’s ‘new policies’ scenario, which assumes that only existing climate policies are carried out with no additional action undertaken. Such a lack of climate ambition from Australia would be unacceptable.

Bridge scenario sees fossil fuel subsidies cut

The IEA report, however, provides a strategy (so-called ‘Bridge scenario’) for delivering a peak in energy emissions by 2020, which also leaves the possibility of attaining the safe threshold of 2°C. According to the report, the Bridge scenario can be attained with no additional cost – mostly by withdrawing fossil fuel subsidies, increasing energy efficiency and phasing out inefficient coal-fired power stations.

2°C scenario – highly dependent on CCS deployment

Importantly, the IEA’s 2°C scenario assumes the deployment of CCS. The report notes that the widespread deployment of the technology will act to lower its costs, which have acted as a barrier so far. What is more, the document calls for a global carbon price of around EUR 125/tonne by 2040.

In order to raise near-term opportunities for raising climate ambition the Bridge scenario lists the essential elements in an energy sector transition compatible with the 2°C. The report states that “In order to ensure that key technologies, such as CCS or electric vehicles are commercially available at the required scale by early 2020s, a further push on research, development and deployment will be essential”.

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