At the beginning of April, the US submitted plans to the UN to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% within 10 years. They were joined by over thirty other countries including all EU nations, Switzerland, Norway, Mexico, and Russia in submitting plans prior to this winter’s UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. These countries currently account for 58% of emissions with the US responsible for 17% of that so these plans are a step in the right direction. However, India and Brazil, both major CO2 emitters, among other countries did not submit plans, though they may (hopefully) make formal commitments in future months before the meeting in Paris. The climate policy advisor for the US had positive comments, saying these goals proposed by the Obama administration are achievable. The US is already underway in working towards this goal. There are proposed plans to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-powered energy plants as well as methane emissions by at least 40% by 2025. Improved standards for fuel economy of cars and trucks have also been implemented. These plans are definitely noteworthy, especially in light of the recent political climate with Republicans criticizing the White House for bypassing Congress and having the EPA establish new power plant emission regulations. However, some say these steps are not enough. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations says much steeper cuts at power plants will be needed to meet these goals i.e. a 75% reduction in coal use at these plants, up from the 40% currently proposed. If these countries can meet their pledges, these cuts in emissions will go a long way towards keeping us at or below the 2 degree C increase limit, and it is optimistic that steps are already being taken to implement these plans.
This news is applicable to yesterday’s climate negotiations in class. That activity was eye opening to how quickly and how much needs to be done to keep us below that 2 degree limit. It is definitely a good sign that these plans have been submitted but will they be enough, especially since some fast developing countries have not committed? It would be interesting to run the program we used to see how successful these goals are. The negotiations this winter are expected to produce a global commitment that will be implemented by 2020. Although, based on yesterday’s results, coming up with an agreement will undoubtedly be difficult. This UN conference is the 21st annual meeting since the first UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and the 11th since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. 196 countries will be in Paris to attempt to create an agreement that will take productive action on climate change. This year seems hopeful as significant breakthroughs have been seen since the chaotic meeting in 2009 in Copenhagen. Efforts by both the US and China, among other countries, also provide some optimism. Many countries are working towards a feasible outcome that will enable individual countries to act due to a framework that will make it easier for nations to work together. Success at these negotiations will also give a clear signal to businesses to invest in low carbon outcomes. It seems that implementing a global commitment within five years and reductions of emissions within ten years will begin definitive action to mitigate climate change.