WWF Analysis of the Copenhagen Accord

In the past few days, both the World Resources Institute and WWF have published analyses of the impacts of the Copenhagen Accord in addressing climate change. I plan to summarize both of these reports in the next few days, because they would both be excellent readings for a climate change law/policy course. Today, I look at the WWF’s report, The Copenhagen Accord: A Stepping Stone? (Jan. 2010). 

Among the key messages from the report are the following:

  • One of the most disappointing aspects of the Copenhagen Accord was its muddled language on adaptation and adaptation finance, including conflating adaptation concerns of countries vulnerable to the impacts of climate change with concerns of countries e.g. Saudi Arabia, who could face economic dislocation from a phase down of fossil fuel use;
  • Several analyses of the current pledges of major emitting countries under the Copenhagen Accord reveal that the world is not on a trajectory to hold global temperatures to below 2C; in fact, we may be on track to “well over 3 C even at the more ambitious end of current mitigation pledges.” (and these studies all assume that pledging States move to the top end of their proposed target ranges). To put this in perspective, while three recent studies conclude that global emissions need to be at 44 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent or lower by 2020, global emissions in 2005 already stood at around 45 gigatons, and have been rising steeply in recent years;
  • The “gigatons gap” is likely to be far wider if one takes into account several loopholes in the climate regime, including “hot air” from Russia and other Eastern European countries (phantom emissions, i.e. those would never have occurred given the region’s economic downturn in the 90s, but which can be sold as CDM credits under the Kyoto Protocol); CDM projects that fail the additionality requirement, and questionable accounting rules for LULUCF emissions in industrialized countries;
  • The pledges advanced by industrialized countries before and after Copenhagen only add up to a range of emissions reductions of 13-18% below 1990 levels, vs. the 25-40% that would be necessary to give the world a reasonable chance of avoiding temperature increases of more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

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