(The Wall Street Journal- US) The pledges that countries have made to reduce their CO2 emissions “fall short” of what is needed to reach a key target set at the Copenhagen climate summit last year, according to a study by the International Energy Agency.
The so-called Copenhagen Accord hashed out at last December’s United Nations summit said the increase in global temperature “should be below two degrees Celsius,” and many climate scientists say failing to meet that target would have dire consequences for the environment. But the IEA says in the study that the commitments made so far won’t be enough to keep the temperature rise to two degrees.
The news comes amid growing skepticism that the next big U.N.-sponsored climate conference — to be held in the Mexican resort of Cancun at the end of the year — can deliver a legally binding deal on curbing emissions. For now, prospects for a deal in Mexico look bleak, said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. “Unfortunately, the wind is not necessarily blowing in the right direction,” he said.
The IEA, which advises industrialized nations on energy policy, has calculated the action plans that countries have submitted so far won’t stabilize the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalenta level that would translate into a two-degree temperature rise, according to the agency.
“The pledges made so far mean 550 parts per million and result in a three-degree increase in temperature,”‘ Mr. Birol said. “That’s much higher than many countries would like to see.”
Some policy makers say a legally binding treaty isn’t necessarily the best way to tackle climate change, and that the world should focus more on measures such as improving energy efficiency and investment in green jobs and renewable energy.
The climate-change world has been roiled by an incident late last year, when more than 1,000 emails taken from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England were posted on the Internet. Some of the emails suggested attempts to suppress or manipulate data. The center’s director, Prof. Phil Jones, stepped aside pending the outcome of an independent investigation.
Through the university’s press office, Prof. Jones declined to comment. In interviews with Nature magazine and with the BBC published in recent days, Prof. Jones denied cheating on data, unfairly influencing the scientific process, or seeking to censor or suppress papers that didn’t support the theory of man-made warming.
In the BBC interview, he acknowledged a failure to organize some of his decades-old weather data, and said that had contributed to his refusal to share raw data with critics. Climate scientists, he said, needed to be more transparent with data.
The comments by the IEA’s Mr. Birol parallel efforts by U.S. officials to lower expectations ahead of the conference in Mexico, following the failure at Copenhagen to agree on a full treaty to curb greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. These downbeat assessments have been fueled by increasing concern at the stance adopted by developing nations, particularly Brazil, South Africa, India and China, which together account for 30% of global emissions of heat-trapping gases.
In recent weeks, ministers in India, who fear curbs on carbon could hold back growth, have stressed the accord is a “catalogue of voluntary commitments,” rather than obligations. The U.S., in contrast, is seeking to build on the Copenhagen deal to draw up a full-scale U.N. treaty.
“They’re sending out signals — yes, the Copenhagen Accord is fine, and in some ways it may be a framework, but it’s by no means a legally binding agreement,” said Louis Bono, a counselor on energy and environment at the U.S. mission to the European Union, speaking at a conference in London. “We are going to have a difficult set of negotiations” in Mexico, he said.
Under the Copenhagen Accord, countries had to send in their plans by Jan. 31 for achieving the goal of a temperature increase of no more than two degrees.