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Emissions Targets: Who’s doing what…

August 16, 2009

The claim is sometimes made, mainly by opponents of action on climate change, that “our country shouldn’t get to far out in front the world”. So in the interests of clarifying how far in front of the rest of the world everyone is, here is a brief list so that we all can see where everyone’s at right now, in terms of concrete action and targets:

  1. USA– The Waxman Markey Bill is still on its way to come out of committee in the Senate by 18th September, according to Senate Whip Harry Reid, in time for a Senate vote in October. Proposed Target (2020): Cap and Trade = -17% on 2005.
  2. Canada – The Government of Canada is waiting for the US to pass Waxman-Markey before publicly announcing its intention to implement cap and trade, in the hope of harmonising with the USA. Target (2020) =20% on 2006 levels
  3. Japan– PM Taro Aso has promised -15% on 2005 levels by 2020. However, the Japanese Government faces elections this month, with Taro Aso’s party likely to be defeated by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has already introduced an Emissions Trading Bill for a scheme to begin in 2011, which would cut emissions by  -30% on 2005 levels by 2020. It has pledged to use it as its negotiating platform in Copenhagen.
  4. New Zealand – Has begun an emissions trading scheme for its forestry sector, but is waiting for Australiato pass its CPRS Bill so it can “harmonise” with the Australian Scheme; Australia being a major trading partner. Announced Target = -10 to -20% below 1990 levels. The government will announce exactly how it intends to meet its targets before the Copenhagen Conference in December.    
  5. Australia– Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (an ETS) to be voted and probably passed in late November. Target 2020 = 4-24% on 1990 levels depending on outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations.
  6. Taiwan– The Taiwanese Senate will vote on a Bill later this year to implement an ETS. Taiwan is the 22nd largest emitter of CO2 from energy production in the world and the 16thlargest emitter per capita. Target for 2020 = +0% of 2000 levels (reduction of approx. 250Mt CO2e.  
  7. Korea – South Koreahas pledged it will cut carbon emissions 21-30 per cent below business-as-usual (BAU) by 2020 (i.e. between -4 to +8% on 2005 levels). The Bill which would “lock in” these measures is scheduled for a vote in September/October. South Korea would then be the first ‘developing’ country (i.e. non-Annex 1 in the Kyoto Protocol) to set legally binding targets to reduce emissions.
  8. Mexico– Like Soutth Korea, Mexico is another non-Annex 1 country, and therefore has no binding Kyoto target, however it has pledged to reduce its emissions by 8% from 2008 by 2012 and bring a big policy plan for reductions to 2020 to the table in Copenhagen as an example to other developing countries.
  9. UK– Covered under the EU ETS. Has pledged to cut emissions by 25–34% on 2000 levels by 2020 depending on Copenhagen outcome.
  10.  EU-27 – Already have Emissions Trading (EU ETS) for Electricity and Industry emissions since 2005.  The European Commission has legislated to reduce emissions by 20-30% on 1990 levels depending on the Copenhagen outcome. Many countries, such as France and UK are in the process of developing Carbon Taxes for energy sources not covered by the EU ETS.  

The obvious, but all too often ignored, point about this is that countries clearly watch each other to see what like countries are doing. If everyone stands back and waits, obviously nothing gets done. For instance, Australian “do-nothing too-late” advocates often say: “but we are just 1% of world emissions. We should wait for the US / China / India”. Well last year the US emitted around 7,500,000,000 tonnes of CO2e, while Australia emitted around 570,000,000 tCO2e . So if you take 13 countries with emissions more or less the size of Australia’s (e.g. Korea, Mexico, Canada, Iran, South Africa, UK, etc) you rival the US or China in emissions importance. In a fair world, they do their bit and we smaller countries do ours, no?

PS. Incidentally, with the exception of the EU, the UK, and Japan’s DPJ,  none of these cuts are inline with the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on the science of climate change, which called for developed countries to cut emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels in order to avoid more than an average 2°C of warming (ie dangerous climate change).

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