Accord with China helps US cut 2025 emission-reduction target (Nitin Sethi, Business Standard, Nov 29,, 2014 )

US China environment

Instead of setting higher targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emission compared to its previous commitments, the US has reduced the target for 2025 by two-four per cent, under a joint declaration with China. The latter, too, has kept the language of the declaration loose.

Under the joint declaration, the US announced by 2025 it would cut emissions 26-28 per cent compared to 2005 levels. China announced its emissions would peak “around 2030”

But in 2010, under the Copenhagen Accord and Cancun Agreements of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the US had said by 2025, it would reduce its emissions 30 per cent compared to 2005 levels. That commitment of the US is remembered more for the 17 per cent cut it had promised by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. But in its formal communication announcing the 17 per cent cut to the UNFCCC, the US had also said, “In addition, the pathway set forth in pending legislation (which require the 17 per cent cut by 2020) would entail 30 per cent emission reduction by 2025 and 42 per cent emission reduction by 2030, in line with the goal to reduce emissions 83 per cent by 2050.”

This shows the US has used the joint announcement with China to reduce its emission reduction target for 2025 by two-four per cent compared to 2005 levels, rather than make any ambitious higher commitment. These figures belie the initial hype about the two countries signing a ‘historic’ agreement. The 2010 declaration of the US was not legally binding, which permitted the largest emitter historically to step back from its earlier commitments. The joint declaration with China, too, is in the nature of an announcement, and not a bilateral agreement.

The US declaration under the joint statement loses value further when compared to the benchmark year of 1990 year, used to gauge targets for developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol. The US prefers to use the 2005 emission levels to measure its reductions, as its emissions had peaked under a ‘business-as-usual’ case at that time.

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