CSE bats for putting clear limits on carbon emissions by countries

parisCentre for Science and Environment, one of India’s biggest environmental research and lobbying organization, has said that the current proposal to set a target of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees could be a ‘hollow shell’ if no limits are placed on individual country emissions.

Countries from across the world are negotiating in the Paris climate conference, where a proposal to restrict temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius (compared to pre-industrial times) from 2 degrees is gaining ground.

“There is growing momentum for tightening the global goal from 2 degree Celsius to 1.5 degree Celsius – a target that may better help the world avoid the worst effects of climate change. Developed countries have openly given their support to this goal; India and China have also shown their willingness to consider this temperature goal,” the organization, which has five representatives in the CoP-21 conference, said.

However, it pointed out that such high-sounding ambitions will remain just that if quotas are not imposed.

CSE pointed out that for a 50% probability of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius, the total carbon dioxide emissions have to be limited to to 550 giga-tonnes (giga=billion).

To raise the certainty of meeting this temperature goal to 66 per cent, then the budget shrinks to a mere 400 Gt CO2, it pointed out. (These are not annual figures, but cumulative.)

“The US and the EU would consume 128 Gt CO2 between 2011 and 2030. If we take available carbon space to be 550 Gt CO2 (for a 50 per cent probability of staying below 1.5 degree Celsius) then the EU and the US alone will consume 23 per cent of the budget,” CSE noted.

“India most likely will be emitting only 58 Gt CO2 until 2030 – 10.5 per cent of the available budget of 550 Gt CO2. Even at higher growth rates of GDP (using the figure quoted by the Indian government in its INDC), this may go up to 87 Gt CO2 — 16% of the budget of 550 Gt CO2. India’s emissions would, therefore, be less than half of the Annex 1 countries, though India has approximately the same population as all Annex 1 countries combined together,” it pointed out.

“Annex-I (developed) countries as a whole would emit 187 Gt CO2 between 2011-2030 – 34 per cent of the total budget. The developed countries under the current dispensation would continue to misappropriate the remaining carbon space even in the future,” it noted.

Currently there are no limits on how much countries can emit. We need limits so that countries individually and the world collectively remain within the available carbon space, it added.

Moreover, if India and China are to follow a low-carbon path to progress, it would require assistance from the rich countries who account for most of the current excess carbon in the atmosphere.

“meeting this temperature goal would require massive enhancement of financial and technological support from the developed countries to the developing countries so that they are able to move quickly onto low-carbon development pathways. In addition, developed countries will have to significantly increase the level of their own efforts and reach net zero emissions in the next 5-10 years. In the absence of such commitments, a 1.5 OC temperature target would remain a hollow shell – devoid of any real significance,” CSE said.

The CoP-21 Paris conference, held under the aegis of the United Nations, is scheduled to end on Dec 11, and country representatives are trying to cobble together a deal before that.

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, despite being from the conservative side of the political spectrum, has shown extraordinary willingness to explore ways to reduce carbon emissions. He and US President Barack Obama had a phone conversation today on the subject of finding middle ground in Paris.