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Current GHG emissions pledges leave climate targets in the red

21 September 2009 International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions currently proposed by industrialized countries fall short of the pathway to reaching a 2 degree target as referred to by the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol negotiating group, despite the fact that the cost of meeting these pledges is much lower than anticipated, according to a study released today.

The study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) states that by 2020, total GHG emissions of industrialized (Annex I) countries would decline by between only 5% and 17%, relative to 1990, depending on the conditions associated with the pledges.

The aggregate proposal falls short of the 25-40% range referred to by negotiating Parties in 2007. In particular, a reduction by only 5% would merely carry forward the Kyoto Protocol targets to the next decade.

The analysis, conducted using IIASA’s GAINS (Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies) model, suggests that with appropriate economic trading mechanisms, the 5% reduction implied by the conservative interpretation of pledges would involve no net costs to Annex I countries as a whole. Most of the nominal reductions could be satisfied through accounting of surplus emission permits that are implicit in the current pledges of some countries. Remaining emission cuts could be achieved through low-cost energy efficiency measures which pay for themselves over their lifetime (such as improved insulation of buildings or more efficient vehicles).

“Our analysis strongly suggests that the cost to Annex I countries implied by their current negotiation offers are indeed very low with respect to their GDP,” says Dr Markus Amann, leader of IIASA’s GAINS team.

“Even for the most optimistic 17% emissions reduction, our analysis suggests that mitigation costs would not exceed 0.01-0.05%, per annum, of the GDP of all Annex I countries, this is insignificant compared to a 42% increase in GDP that is assumed between now and 2020 for these same countries. At the same time, with fairly lenient targets, the carbon prices would remain low and developing countries would not benefit from the Clean Development Mechanism.”

“A comparison of efforts by individual parties depends on the exact metric that is used. The current negotiation offers imply costs to some countries, while others would receive net revenues from an oversupply of emission allowances.  Yet, if ‘hot air’* emissions were excluded from the analysis and all Annex I Parties agree to small positive net mitigation costs, an overall reduction of 24% , instead of 17%, could be achieved by 2020,” says Dr Amann.” In addition, exclusion of ‘hot air’ would provide incentives to invest in measures in developing countries.”

The analysis is based on projections made prior to the economic crisis. It is likely that post-crisis emissions will be lower than currently projected, and that the costs of reaching the emission reduction targets will be even less than suggested in this study.

IIASA’s analysis also reveals significant co-benefits on local air quality as a result of reduced GHG emissions. Despite the low ambition, implied mitigation measures would cut SO2, NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions by approximately 10% at no extra costs, which will reduce local negative health impacts from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) accordingly.

Attached files

  • GAINS quantifies the implications of GHG mitigation strategies on air pollution

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