Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Might the World's Governments Flunk the Climate Exam?

Anyone who thinks that international regulation is our best hope for containing climate change should be noticing as various nations submit the first drafts of their proposed policy initiatives (called INDCs--don't ask) to the UN's FCCC, in advance of the December conference in Paris. And any non-expert (like me) who wants to evaluate these proposals has a friend in the Climate Action Tracker website, which attempts to align these proposals on a common 'fairness' scale, where fairness tries to account for both the net proposed greenhouse gas reduction and the particular capabilities of each nation. In that way the CAT website mirrors and anticipates the evaluation the UNFCCC will itself be making later this year, as it tries to measure and align the full set of 195 national INDCs.

But with 6 or so nations already responding (including the EU, Russia, and Japan--major players--as well as Switzerland, Norway and Mexico), how does it look? Well, not so great. The CAT's ratings system includes categories of 'sufficient' (i.e. if all nations met this standard, the odds of holding temperature rise at 2C would be strong); 'medium' (not good enough for 2C, but might combine with more 'sufficient' plans to meet that goal); and 'inadequate' (if that's the best these nations are willing to do, then we'll all cook with increases of 3-4 degrees C or worse).

So how are we doing? The various Europeans are hovering at sub-par levels rated 'medium,' while the Russians and Japanese are 'inadequate,' for a variety of reasons explained on the website. Both of course claim to do better, but dubious counting strategies fail to meet CAT's standards.

Is this analysis the last word in official scorekeeping on this issue? Surely not--there are too many variables and interests, and no doubt many other evaluations will be forthcoming. Is CAT a good start? I think so, especially where at this relatively early date there is still time for international 'peer pressure' to weigh in on the 'inadequate' plans and bump these governments up to higher, more promising standards. Of the most urgent candidates for such pressure, India and  China rank highest, closely followed by ... US.

No comments:

Post a Comment