Report reveals insufficiency of submitted country pledges towards COP21

Publish date: June 30, 2015

With the decisive UN Climate Summit only a few months away, it is important to take stock of the adequacy and ambition of countries’ climate pledges. An assessment carried out by the International Energy Agency (IEA), finds that the submitted pledges do little for safeguarding our climate and limiting temperature rise to 2°C. The report, however, provides a ‘Bridge scenario’ to enable us to remain within safe levels of warming. The Bridge scenario delivers some key messages: we need to see the widespread deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and electric vehicles (EVs), two key solutions to climate change Bellona has been actively working on for over two decades.

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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