All major emitters meet Accord deadline

2 February 2010

Fifty-five countries have met the UN’s 31st January deadline for submitting their intended climate mitigation commitments under the Copenhagen Accord. Crucially, submissions have been received by all major emitters, including the US, China, the EU, and India.

Sunday’s deadline was agreed at last month’s UN climate conference and required developed countries to submit emission reduction targets for 2020, while developing countries had to provide information on the mitigation actions they intended to take over the same period. Further submissions are expected over coming weeks following an earlier statement from the UN's Chief Climate Official that Jan 31 was essentially a 'soft deadline'.

The submitting countries cover around three quarters of global emissions and account for over 85% of world GDP. This is an improvement over the Kyoto Protocol’s 55% coverage of emissions, although unlike the Protocol the Accord’s commitments are not binding.

As expected, countries have not gone beyond the pledges that many of them made at or before Copenhagen. China for example, has reiterated its commitment to reduce its carbon intensity by 40-45%, while the US has stuck to its 17% emission cut from 2005 levels by 2020. The EU and Australia have kept their emission target ranges, signalling their intent and willingness to increase their ambition depending on what the rest of the international community chooses to do.

Perhaps most importantly, however, key countries have retained the level of ambition in their earlier pledges, thereby setting a floor for building additional commitment over the coming year and beyond.  This is vital, as current commitments fall far short of the kind of emission reductions climate scientists have recommended for avoiding dangerous temperature increases of above 2oC. Canada is a notable exception, reducing its earlier 2020 target from a 20% to 17% cut, thereby aligning it with the US.

What still remains unclear is what happens next. Although the commitments send an encouraging signal that all the major emitters support the Accord, there is still disagreement over how to move negotiations forward. The BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) last week reaffirmed their support for concluding the two-track Bali Roadmap negotiation in Mexico in December. However, concerns over the progress of climate and energy legislation in the US, and developed country frustration with a dysfunctional UNFCCC process means that such an outcome remains uncertain.

Country Commitments

Developed countries

Developing countries

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