Science

US submits climate change pledges to UN

The United States recently pledged to the United Nations to cut carbon pollution by up to 28% in order to reduce the effects of global warming.

Tuesday 31st March was the informal deadline set by the UN for countries to submit their climate commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that will take place in Paris next December. Nations can propose goals according to their contexts, and will have to work and agree on a global climate treaty with the common aim to limit the average temperature rise to 2°C. Scientists now consider this to be the breaking point, beyond which the effects of climate change could become even more catastrophic and irreversible.

However, Tuesday’s deadline was just informal, to accelerate and push nations’ commitments in order to avoid a replica of Copenhagen’s 2009 climate conference, nowadays still regarded as a failure. Partially because of this, so far only Norway, Russia, Mexico, the European Union and the United States have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.
The US promised to reduce its emissions from 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Brian Deese, White House’s climate adviser, said in a blogpost: “the target is ambitious and achievable, and we have the tools we need to reach it”. With this target, the US pledge aims to pave the way for other nations’ commitment. “The goal will roughly double the pace at which we’re reducing carbon pollution”, said Deese, “through cost-effective measures using laws already on the books”. Such measures include considerable limits in methane emissions, tighter controls on power plants, regulation for vehicles on country’s roads and the promotion of clean and renewable energies as a viable solution.

Other countries’ efforts remain significant, with the EU’s proposed reduction by at least 40% by 2030, and Russia’s cuts of 25% by 2020.

Whereas these measures are opening up spaces for a growing optimism, the opinion among NGOs, politicians, and scientists remain divided. “While this contribution does move closer to the 2°C pathway, it does not represent the level of ambition needed to avoid catastrophic climate change”, Oxfam told the Guardian last Tuesday.

Such opinions are further justified by the fact that some of the most polluting nations, such as India, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia and China, haven’t released their proposals.

Is this a reason to be worried? Perhaps not, considering that nations have until late October and that the ones committed so far are responsible for 60% of global emissions.

It is perhaps unlikely that each country will agree to take strong measures, but the Paris Climate Summit could be a prime occasion for these countries to raise their national ambitions and play more leading roles in making emissions cuts. There is certainly more that can be done, but the steps taken so far remain significant.

14/04/2015

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