January 13, 2009
For the last 20 years humanity has been trying, without success, to reverse the relentless trend towards rising greenhouse gases, essentially C02. It has taken almost 10 years from the negotiation to the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement aiming at reducing such emissions. For the past two years, the international community has been busy preparing for a successor agreement to enter into force by early 2013, with not very promising results so far.
The negotiations for a new climate agreement are scheduled to be finalised at the Copenhagen Climate Conference next December.
With the present approach this seems rather improbable.
The international community should therefore search for a more effective one.
It should alter the mode of negotiations. With almost 200 government teams negotiating under a top heavy UN umbrella, a satisfactory outcome is highly unlikely. To obtain a meaningful text, the G 20 countries responsible for the bulk of C02 emissions should take matters in hand and produce a text, on which they should then try to align other key emitter countries.
The new treaty should take a forward-looking perspective, with 2050 as the time perspective within which humanity will need to reduce green house gases decisively. Scientific advice calls for at least a halving of global green house emissions by 2050, in order to stabilise the world climate at acceptable levels. Halving of C02 emissions by 2050 should therefore become the yardstick by which to fix intermediate objectives for 2020, 2030 and 2040. 2010 will replaced 1990 as the reference year by which commitments for reductions will be measured.
In view of making the new climate treaty effective, all countries with per capita emissions exceeding four tons must take commitments for reducing their green house gas emissions. It must no longer be admissible for major emitter countries like China, USA, India, Russia and OPEC to stay away.
The new Treaty should duly take into account different levels of per capita emissions. Aiming at halving of global emissions until 2050 requires reducing average global per capita emissions from roughly 4 tons today to less than 1.5 tons, because of the expected rise of world population by 2.7 additional billion human beings. Countries with a very wasteful and inefficient use of energy like USA, Canada and major oil/gas producers will have to reduce their emissions by more than 90 percent, the EU, Russia, Japan and Korea by some 80 percent, China by more than half. The bulk of developing countries will not need to take any commitments for reductions, as long as their emissions do not exceed 1.5 tons per capita, probably not before 2030.
By 2020, C02 emissions of the G 20 countries should be at least 25 percent lower than in 2010, with the biggest per capita emitters (USA, Canada, Australia, EU, Gulf countries having to make bigger efforts emerging countries (in particular China).
This is a tall order; but assuming the necessary political will and focus it is perfectly possible to reach these objectives without incurring economic costs of more than 1-2 percent of GDP, significantly less than military expenditures.
Every member country would be responsible for the measures to be taken in view of attaining its fixed objectives. But each country should report annually to the “International Energy and Climate Agency”, to which the new Treaty should attribute the role of assisting countries in their energy strategies and monitoring performance. To that end, all countries taking commitments for reduction should join the expanded IEA.
Member countries of the future climate treaty should be encouraged to introduce a “cap and trade” system for reaching their reduction objectives in the most market-friendly way. Though this might facilitate member countries to fulfil their reduction objectives, it will be the depth of the caps that determines the success of any climate policy.
In view of making the future climate treaty fully effective, the following additional provisions should be taken:
• All countries should phase out subsidies on fossil energies before 2015.
• The World Bank should assume the key role for co-financing the huge investments required for creating a low-carbon energy system. To that end, its capital needs be increased substantially, including a soft finance window for projects in emerging countries.
• Before 2012, developed and major forest countries should have concluded an effective agreement for forest preservation, especially in tropical regions.
• Before 2012, major automobile producing countries should have concluded an agreement imposing increasingly stricter fuel efficiency standards for automobiles up to 2020.
• Before 2012, the IATA should have concluded an agreement for progressively phasing out the use of fossil energy in air transport by latest 2050.
• Before 2012, the major countries responsible for methane emissions should have concluded a separate agreement to tackle the second most important green house gas.
• G 20 countries should commit to phase out new fossil-fuel fired power stations after 2020.