Copenhagen Accord Pledges Filed, Warts and All

Copenhagen Accord Pledges Filed, Warts and All

Image CC-licensed by Flickr user CIAT - International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Fifty-five countries responsible for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions have submitted plans to curb their impacts as part of the Copenhagen Accord.

But some are sounding the alarm that the pledges won't be enough to avoid a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise and catastrophic climate change. While all major emitting countries met the Jan. 31 deadline to file their emissions cutting plans, some pledges fell short of previously announced commitments. For example, Canada dialed down a target set two years ago to a new goal that mirrors the U.S. commitment of a 17 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, relative to 2005 levels.

"Although important in showing the intent to move to a low-carbon economy, the commitments are far below what is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change," Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said in a statement Monday. "The level of ambition must be ratcheted up if the world is to avoid dangerous levels of warming. Countries who have submitted their target as a range, in particular, must aim for the higher end."

The European Union said it could reduce emissions by up to 30 percent below 1990 levels if other countries offered similarly aggressive goals, but since none did, it will shoot for the lower end of its offered range of 20 percent. Emerging nations China and India maintained previous commitments to slow the rate of emissions growth by up to 45 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Scientists have warned that emissions must fall between 25 percent and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and by some 85 percent by 2050 in order to avoid the worst effects from climate change.

The Copenhagen Accord was drafted in December at the 11th hour during the international climate change conference in Denmark aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The finished product has been widely panned because it fell short of a legally binding agreement with goals many criticized as being too weak.

Despite the criticism, some hailed the submissions as a positive sign for the Copenhagen Accord, which was hammered out largely by the U.S., China, India and Brazil. "We are pleased to be among 55 countries, including all of the world's major economies, that have submitted pledges to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Copenhagen Accord," U.S. climate change negotiator Todd Stern said in a statement. "We urge all countries to join this broad coalition."

Image CC-licensed by Flickr user CIAT - International Center for Tropical Agriculture.