Rich countries have been put on the back foot after new research showed that current pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions could be wiped out by gaping loopholes in the United Nations climate change treaty put forward in Copenhagen last year.
Developing countries have argued strongly for minimum 40 per cent emission cuts from industrialised nations by 2020.
But new analysis from the Stockholm Environment Institute and Third World Network (TWN), released at the latest UN climate talks in Bonn, showed that current pledges amounted to only 12-18 per cent reductions below 1990 levels without loopholes. When all loopholes were taken into account, emissions could be allowed to rise by 9 per cent.
The research factored in four separate loopholes that are known to exist, but which countries have so far failed to address in the negotiations.
These include land use and forestry credits, carbon offset credits gained from UN Clean Development Mechanism schemes, surplus carbon allowances accumulated by former Soviet countries and international aviation and shipping emissions, which are not currently included in emission reduction schemes proposed by countries. “Industrialised countries pledged a modest reduction in their emissions at the Copenhagen talks last year, but the these loopholes would actually allow them to grow them substantially well into the future,” said Sivan Kartha, senior scientist at the Stockholm Institute.
“This means they [rich nations] need not do anything to hold emissions. They could accumulate huge amounts of credits to continue business as usual,” he said.
“The more we look into the loopholes the worse it gets. The whole thing begins to look like a farce”, said Lim Li Lin, a legal specialist with TWN.