Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UN Releases Guidelines To Meet GHG Emissions Targets By 2020

Note: WIMS will not be publishing on Thursday and Friday during the Thanksgiving Day holiday break. We will resume publication on Monday, November 28, 2011. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day and be safe.
Nov 23: A new United Nations study released today (November 23, 2011) provides policy-makers with technical and economically feasible guidelines on how to cut down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so governments can meet their environmental targets by 2020. The study, Bridging the Emissions Gap, released by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), argues that the world already has the solutions to avert damaging climate change, and gives specific recommendations to put these into action, highlighting the need for changes in the energy system and examining various economic sectors such as electricity production, transport, aviation, forestry and agriculture to consider for emissions reductions in the next 10 years.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "The annual UNEP Gap Report is a vital contribution to the global effort to address dangerous climate change. It shows that we have much to do, both in terms of ambition and policy, but it also shows that the gap can still be closed if we act now. This is a message of hope and an important call to action." The report also examines research on the gap between the pledges made by countries to cut their GHG emissions and what measures will be needed to keep the global temperature rise below the two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) target by 2020.

    Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director said, "This report puts into the hands of governments and policy-makers vital information about their options if the world is to meet the climate change challenge." In particular, the report cites aviation and shipping as important sectors to focus on as they account for five percent of carbon dioxide emissions. However, these sectors fall outside the Kyoto Protocol, the emissions reduction treaty, whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012. The report indicates that options for reducing emissions from both sectors include improving fuel efficiency and using low-carbon fuels. For the shipping sector, another promising and simple option is to reduce ship speeds.

    Some of the report's recommendations for policy-makers include agreeing to implement their emissions reduction pledges with stricter rules, deciding to target their energy systems using more non-fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, and putting in place long-term, specific-sector policies to achieve the full emissions potential of the different economic sectors. The report includes the financial costs of these measures, addressing a key concern for policy-makers. According to UNEP, global average marginal costs range from $25-$54 per ton of removed carbon dioxide, with a median value of $34 per ton. The report also presents far more pessimistic scenarios, warning of what could happen if countries do not fully realize their commitments.

    The provision of the guidelines, which involved 55 scientists and experts from 28 scientific groups across 15 countries, comes just a few days before the start of the UN Climate Change Convention in Durban, South Africa (November 28 to December 9), and seven months before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said, "Time is short, so we need to optimize the tools at hand. In Durban, governments need to resolve the immediate future of the Kyoto Protocol, define the longer path towards a global, binding climate agreement, launch the agreed institutional network to support developing countries in their response to the climate challenge, and set out a path to deliver the long-term funding that will pay for that."

    On October 24, 2011, UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI) released another similar report warning that  international efforts to mitigate climate change are insufficient to meet the goal of keeping global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels [See WIMS 10/24/11]. That report -- Building the Climate Change Regime: Survey and Analysis of Approaches -- outlines a list of options to achieve the target, including more cuts in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from additional sectors, stronger accounting rules both within the UNFCCC and through other multilateral and domestic strategies, sharing mitigation efforts based on countries' capacities or contributions to the problem, and legally binding commitments. The report reviewed more than 130 proposals put forward by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academics to design a climate regime capable of delivering adequate mitigation.

    Specifically, the study reviewed 13 scenarios from nine different scientific groups. The scenarios were all able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2-degree target by 2020 by using a combination of the following:

  • Improving energy efficiency: primary energy production would need to drop up to 11 percent from business-as-usual models in 2020, and the amount of energy used per unit of GDP would need to fall 1.1-2.3 percent each year from 2005 to 2020.
  • Up to 28 percent of total primary energy would need to come from non-fossil sources in 2020 (up from 18.5 percent in 2005).
  • Up to 17 percent of total primary energy in 2020 would come from biomass (up from about 10.5 percent in 2005).
  • Up to 9 percent of total primary energy in 2020 would come from non-biomass renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectricity and the like).
  • Non-CO2 emissions would fall by up to 19 percent relative to business as usual by 2020.

    The study also examined research on various economic sectors to consider technical potential for emissions reductions by 2020. It found the following potential:

  • Electricity production: 2.2 to 3.9 GtCO2e [gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent] per year through more efficient power plants, and by introducing renewable energy sources, carbon capture and storage and fuel shifting.
  • Industry: 1.5 to 4.6 GtCO2e per year through improved energy efficiency, fuel switching, power recovery, materials efficiency and other measures.
  • Transport (excluding aviation and shipping sectors): 1.4 to 2.0 GtCO2e per year through improved fuel efficiency, adoption of electric drive vehicles, shifting to public transit and use of low-carbon fuels.
  • Aviation and shipping: 0.3-0.5 GtCO2e per year through improved fuel efficiency and low-carbon fuels, and other measures.
  • Buildings: 1.4 to 2.9 GtCO2e per year by improving the efficiency of heating, cooling, lighting and appliances, and other measures.
  • Forestry: 1.3 to 4.2 GtCO2e per year by reducing deforestation and making changes in forest management that increases above and below ground carbon stocks.
  • Agriculture: 1.1 to 4.3 GtCO2e per year through changes in cropland and livestock management practices that reduce non-CO2 emissions and enhance soil carbon.
  • Waste: about 0.8 GtCO2e per year by improving wastewater treatment, waste gas recovery from landfills, and other measures.

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a more detailed release from UNEP (click here). Access the Bridging the Emissions Gap report, executive summary and related information (click here). Access a release from WRI on the UNEP/WRI report with links to the complete report, background and related information (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for more information and details on the upcoming COP17/CMP7 meeting (click here). [#Climate]