Evaluation of the Copenhagen Accord: Chances and risks for the 2°C climate goal

28-05-2010 | Publication

The Copenhagen Accord has proven beneficial to the efforts of achieving the target of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius. Since the climate conference was held, countries have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. These pledges could realise up to 70 per cent of the greenhouse gas reduction that is needed. However, the risk of the actual reductions being less, is substantial. Thus is the conclusion of the report Evaluation of the Copenhagen Accord: Chances and risks for the 2 °C climate goal, by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), conducted at the request of the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) and the European Commission.

‘Copenhagen’ target is coming closer

In December 2009, an important United Nations climate change conference (COP15) took place in Copenhagen, Denmark. This conference resulted in the Copenhagen Accord. As part of the Accord, industrialised countries have submitted greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 2020 and developing countries have submitted actions for reducing emissions. This report presents an overview of:

  1. the global emission implications of all these submissions;
  2. the abatement cost implications;
  3. the implications for meeting the 2°C climate goal, specified in the Copenhagen Accord,
  4. the main risks that could increase the existing emissions gap towards 2°C, and
  5. the available options to close the emissions gap towards 2°C.

The country submissions for emission reduction could result in a decrease of the global emission level in 2020 from 56 Gt CO2 eq to about 49 to 50 Gt CO2 eq, against limited costs. For meeting the 2°C climate goal, it is estimated that a global emission level of 44 to 46 Gt CO2 eq is necessary in 2020. Therefore, although the submissions are expected to lead to substantial emission reductions, higher reductions are necessary in order to maintain a reasonable chance of reaching the 2°C climate goal. Several options are identified that could decrease emissions by a further 4 Gt CO2 eq, which would close the emissions gap completely. However, there are also various reasons why the emission reductions resulting from the country submissions could turn out to be much lower.

Erratum August 2010

The report states on page 24: “Mexico is assumed to reduce 21% domestically and the remaining 9% is to be achieved with international funding, which is based on the UNEP Climate Pledge Tracker”. Nevertheless, the Mexican government has not made any division on what could be accomplished domestically and what with international support in 2020. In this regard, the information sourced from the UNEP Climate Pledge Tracker (visited by March 2010) on the assumption that Mexico will accomplish 21% of its national mitigation actions for 2020 relying on its own effort and 9% with external support is not valid. The information on the UNEP Climate Pledge Tracker is now also being updated. Therefore in the report, the sentence needs to be deleted.

On page 61, Table C.1 gives greenhouse gas emissions for the EU15 instead of the EU27. The greenhouse gas estimates for 1990, 2000 and 2020, should be 5.9, 5.4 and 5.5, respectively.