Here’s how the game works: The negotiating framework established at a 2014conference in Lima, Peru, requires each country to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, called an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDC). Each submission is at the discretion of the individual country; there is no objective standard it must meet or emissions reduction it must achieve.
Beyond that, it’s nearly impossible even to evaluate or compare them. Developing countries actually blocked a requirement that the plans use a common format and metrics, so an INDC need not even mention emissions levels.
And many don’t.
Or a country can propose to reduce emissions off a self-defined “business-as-usual” trajectory, essentially deciding how much it wants to emit and then declaring it an “improvement” from the alternative. To prevent such submissions from being challenged, a group of developing countries led by China and India has rejected“any obligatory review mechanism for increasing individual efforts of developing countries.”
So what will be the impact of Paris?
MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change calculates the improvement by century’s end to be only 0.2 degrees Celsius.
I’ve seen others say it may be up to 0.7c
China, for its part, offered to reach peak carbon-dioxide emissions “around 2030” while reducing emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent by that time from its 2005 level. But the U.S. government’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory had already predicted China’s emissions would peak around 2030 even without the climate plan. And a Bloomberg analysis found that China’s 60-65 percent target is less ambitious than the level it would reach by continuing with business as usual.
So China has a target that it is almost impossible not to make.
The INDCs covering actual emissions reductions are subjective, discretionary, and thus essentially unnegotiable. Not so the cash. Developing countries are expecting more than $100 billion in annual funds from this agreement or they will walk away. (For scale, that’s roughly equivalent to the entire OECD budget for foreign development assistance.)
And we’re put in $200 million.
Rich countries are bidding against themselves to purchase the developing world’s signature on an agreement so they can declare victory — even though the agreement itself will be the only progress achieved.
I think that is a bit harsh. I think having every country having a target, even weak ones, will be useful. If over the next decade the temperature gain is significant, then there will be greater pressure to strengthen the targets. It can be harder to get a country to have any target at all, than it is to strengthen it.