Copenhagen is worthless

Reuters reports:

Fifty-five countries, accounting for almost 80 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions, have pledged varying goals for fighting under a deadline in the Accord.

“This represents an important invigoration of the UN climate change talks,” Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, said of the national targets for curbs on emissions until 2020 submitted by January 31.

It represents no such thing. As I said in NBR on Friday, the political tide has turned. Regardless of your views on the science, there is no chance of meaningful reductions in emissions. Even if the EU and Australia and NZ manage some reductions, 50% of the global total is basically , India and the US.

What does India say:

Indian officials said they want the 1992 UN Climate Change Convention to remain the blueprint for global action, not the Copenhagen Accord.

That means they do not want to commit to any reductions at all for India.

And China:

China said it will “endeavour” to cut the amount of carbon produced per unit of economic output by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from 2005. The “carbon intensity” goal would let emissions keep rising, but more slowly than economic growth.

Now even putting aside the fact China won’t agree to any verification of their emissions (ie they can simply make up their figures), what does their pledge mean.

Let us assume that their business as usual case is that emissions will increase in line with economic growth.

Now their GDP in 2005 was US$2.24 trillion. In 2020 it is estimated to be around US14.6 trillion. That is a 640% increase in GDP.

Now if their emissions intensity is 40% less, then the increase in emissions will be 385%.

So China’s pledge is they will only increase emissions by 385% by 2020.

Now their level of emissions in 2006 was 6,103 million tons. So China’s projected increase in emissions is around 23,000 million tons.

New Zealand’s total level of emissions is 30 million tons.

So we could go totally carbon neutral, and it would barely compensate for 0.1% of the increase from China.

In fact China’s pledge to reduce intensity by 40% means their total level of emissions in 2020 could be as high as 33,000 million tons.

And you know what. That is more than the rest of the world produces today. The world, excluding China, produces 22,000 million tons. With China it is 28 million tons

So the entire world could go carbon neutral, and China would still push world emissions up 20% from 2006.

As I have said before, you need to get an agreement between the major emitters first, and the rest of the world will then make sure they pick up their fair share.

And I would say there is no way China is going to agree to reductions beyond what they indicated at Copenhagen.

So regardless of what you think about the science, the fact is there will be no reduction in global emissions. Doesn’t matter what we do, what the US does, what the EU does.

Now I am not an advocate of New Zealand breaking away from the rest of the OECD, and saying we refuse to do anything, unless China comes to the party. We are too small to do that, without the risk of repercussions. But we should shy away from any emission reduction measures that significantly reduce economic growth, and focus mainly on improving technology.

China may change its stance over time – perhaps in ten years or so, if there has been clear evidence of rapidly rising sea levels for example. But for the next decade, global emissions will increase beyond doubt.

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