A few weeks before the COP21 conference which starts on 30 November, the research organisation Climate Action Tracker (CAT) believes that the 2°C increase target set by the international community will not be met. By the end of the century, global warming would actually reach 2.7°C. What are States really proposing to avoid this catastrophe? As the Bonn conference has just ended, nothing seems to be really moving forward and some States would shamelessly cheat to pass on their copies.
We know it: cheating is not gambling...
About 140 countries, representing nearly 80% of current greenhouse gas emissions, submitted their emission projections for 2025-2030 in early October. NDCs (Intented nationally determined contributions), drawn up in the light of each country's economic situation, its energy consumption profiles and the resources available to it. These documents should save time at the summit, are a summary of what each country intends to do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, thereby limiting global warming to 2°C by the end of the century. As it stands, these commitments are insufficient, since they promise a 2.7°C temperature increase, according to experts from the research organization Climate Action Tracker (CAT). Moreover, these states are reportedly using and abusing subtleties that are difficult to understand, giving the impression that they are committing themselves as best they can: according to a FranceTV info surveythe most polluting of them would cheat using different tricks.
Particularly well-chosen reference dates
To finalise its contribution, each State is free to choose the "reference date" from which the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets are calculated. This rule allows some countries to cheat: by basing their calculations on years when they emitted a lot, they make people believe that they have a greater commitment to reduce emissions.
Thus, the United States wants to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28% by 2030 compared to 2005. However, in that year, the country experienced a peak in emissions: 5.8 billion tons of CO2 equivalent were released by the world's second largest polluter, before it went down, shows the Global Carbon Project. But in 2012, the country emitted "only" 5.1 billion tonnes. Using this year as a reference, the American effort would therefore have been more substantial.
Japan, one of the worst students, does the same. In its letter of intent, the Japanese government refers to 2013 to describe its reduction target. Yet, "It was a year when emissions exploded because of the shutdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant [due to the earthquake and tsunami]. Coal-fired power plants were operating at full capacity, reminds francetv info Célia Gautier, from the Climate Action Network. So it's easy to say it's going down. »
Useful renewable energies
In their contributions, countries also list the sectors on which they intend to rely to achieve their goals. If they mention energy, it can be expected that efforts will be made in the renewable sector. One of these sectors is of particular interest in understanding how countries are trying to look their best: that of soils and forests.
Russia's plan, for example, seems ambitious. It aims to reduce its emissions by 30 to 35% in 2030 compared to 1990. But in its note, the country makes this objective conditional on "taking maximum account" of the capacity of its forests to absorb part of the CO2 present in the atmosphere. It is easy to understand why: the country accounts for 25% of the world's forest resources, making it the leading forest country ahead of Brazil and Canada, underlines the site Actu-environnement.
However, Russia provides little detail on its forest management policy other than to ensure their "protection, maintenance and afforestation". A little vague. For Pierre Cannet, head of the Climate Programme at the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), "this compensation by land and forests can be an interesting axis. But it can mask a domestic effort and a delay in the energy transition. In the case of Russia, we can believe that the country is hiding its emissions thanks to this. »
By relying mainly on its forests, Russia will avoid additional efforts in other sectors, such as energy or transport. Worse: this accounting could even conceal an increase in emissions, insists Actu-environnement. In addition, forest fires could undermine Russia's ambitions by making these "carbon sinks" disappear. The Euractiv site recalls that in 2013, the country said goodbye to 4.3 million hectares, most of which had gone up in smoke. And by burning, trees can become a source of carbon since they emit more CO2 than they absorb...
When will it be implemented?
In their commitments, few countries play the game of transparency. Especially the biggest polluters. The European Union was the first to give its contribution, in February, but it was not the first to be precise. Its memo is two pages long, covering 28 member states.
"We're still in the dark."says Célia Gautier of the Climate Action Network. Brussels gives many quantified ambitions - 40% reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 - but does not detail what each country must do. "The Europeans have not yet agreed among themselves. The political decision on the general direction will take place in 2016, after COP21. And the Poles, in particular, are not at all keen to have a discussion on the phasing out of fossil fuels.The specialist in international negotiations analyses.
Conversely, developing countries and China are more prolific. Beijing has published a ten-page document that goes "quite far into detail" about what the Chinese intend to do to initiate change, such as the says the World Resources Institute.
Rights to pollute
The last trick countries use to make people believe in a greater effort is to use the carbon market. This mechanism allows states to continue to emit GHGs themselves by buying carbon credits from other less polluting nations or by participating in emission reduction projects abroad.
This is what Norway and Switzerland are planning to do, and they expect to achieve a 40 and 50% reduction in "their" emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, respectively. It should be noted that the United States and the European Union have decided to exclude this compensation from their calculations.
So what is COP 21 for?
In the current - and real - state of affairs, how can we get an international climate agreement signed that is applicable to all countries and allows real solutions for the Planet?
Early September, a study of European researchers ensured that the various national projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would not be sufficient in their current state to keep global warming below this threshold. They examined the NDCs of fifteen countries and found that seven countries were even making proposals that were off the mark (Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and Russia). The texts of China, the United States, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and the European Union were qualified as means. Only the contributions submitted by Ethiopia and Morocco were considered "sufficient".
This is a worrying observation at a time when about a hundred developing countries, particularly those most exposed to a rise in sea levels, are calling for a more ambitious objective: to cap warming at 1.5°C.
For several months now, negotiators from all countries have been working on a text that should force all States to do their utmost to ensure that the global temperature does not rise by more than 2°C by 2100, compared to that recorded at the end of the 19th century. If all goes well, at the end of the conference, all will ratify it and get ready to implement it in 2020. For the time being, the 195 countries, meeting for five days in Bonn (Germany) for a fourth and final session of negotiations, approved on Friday 23 October the text which should advance the drafting of the future Paris Agreement..
The difficulty is to get everyone to agree on a text that is truly binding and fair to all countries, some of which we know have polluted and are polluting much more than others, particularly the rich countries. If they do not succeed, we will have to find a new date to discuss this text. Time is running out. According to IPCC climatologists, it is absolutely necessary to avoid exceeding 2°C, otherwise meteorological disasters will multiply, threatening geopolitical balances throughout the planet.
And according to Jean-François Julliard, director of Greenpeace, when questioned about France Info, "negotiators are totally above ground, out of touch with what's going on in real life. They spend their time discussing commas, wording, conjugation weights". For NGOs, they forget the essential. For example, some words don't even appear in the draft, such as the term "energy", called for by Climate Action Network.