While US is slipping on Paris Agreement, China and India are improving

14 June 2017 Consultancy.uk 6 min. read
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A new report finds that India and China are both likely to surpass their Paris Agreement targets, however the new policy direction of the US means the nation risks missing out on sustainability goals. As a result, not surprisingly, America's withdrawal from the climate accord under President Trump has drawn global criticism.

The Paris Agreement, which finally came into force at the end of 2016, set out a framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would see well below 2°C and towards 1.5°C of average global temperature increases by 2100. The aim of the agreement is to reduce the risks of extreme weather events and existential risks that come with high levels of environmental change. The agreement sets out various nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that stipulate initial country specific targets for carbon emission reductions.

The Paris Agreement is a step targeted at transforming the global economy into a sustainable model, in light of a long-term goal for sustainable global prosperity and well-being. As it currently stands, scientists project global efforts are likely to see temperatures rise by 2.8°C – meaning the withdrawal of the United States on the executive orders of Donald Trump most likely condemns the plans to failure.

Trump, a repeated climate change denier, currently holds the highest elected office in one of the most polluting countries on earth – and his trashing of the agreement, in the face of bipartisan unity that even includes Cuba’s Raul Castro, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and the leadership of North Korea, throws a spanner in the works of global efforts to wean economies globally off damaging forms of energy production.

Indian renewables outperform coal

A new report from Ecofys explores the effects Trump’s gutting of energy transformation plans will have on the country’s Climate Action Tracker* (CAT) standing. The report considers current trends of other key players, India and China, and their respective efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Considerable improvement

Ecofys' analysts found that India has gone through considerable changes over the past two years, the country’s emissions profile has improved significantly following the cancellation of coal plants not currently under construction. The change of direction has significantly lowered the country’s projected output by 2030. The country now almost scores medium on the CAT, while falling below the min 2020 pledge.

The over-achievement of the country’s Paris Agreement contribution in part reflects wider changes to the energy market that mean renewable energy is now more economically viable than legacy forms of production. The country has noted a slowdown in demand growth while renewables have also been found to be more elastic, due to the lower lead times for planning and deployment.

Chinese coal consumption reduced

China too has announced that it is scrapping the $350 billion roll-out of 120 coal plants to focus energy generation potential ever more towards renewables. While the Asian superpower found itself facing slower than projected demand for electricity, in light of increasingly competitive renewable energy production, it has shifted focus towards renewables as the way forward.

The move away from coal means that the country is likely to have peaked on emissions from energy related exhaust, although other forms of emissions are likely to see the country continue to see its emissions grow slightly up until 2030. All in all, the country is set to surpass its NDC pledge for the Paris Agreement – and potentially on its way to meeting the well below 2°C and towards 1.5°C target of the agreement.

US rollback of federal climate policies

Inadequate Options

While India and China, are improving their respective profiles, the new US regime is currently scrapping and rescinding large numbers of policies put in place by the previous administration of Barrack Obama. These include his 'Executive Order on Energy Independence,' through which President Trump began the process of 'suspending, revising, and rescinding' a number of existing policies. These include the Clean Power Plan, along with the Climate Action Plan.

As it stood, the country was already close to the red-line for its 2020 pledge and NDCs in the mid-term; the current policy projections would see the country continue to operate well below the standard for adequacy line.

Trump administration on climate

The effect of Trump’s current policy initiatives – even before formally leaving the Paris Agreement – would likely have seen a shift of around 20% more greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The policies are also unlikely to benefit the group he appears keen to appease as the industry he pledged to revive during his 2016 election campaign, coal, is becoming decreasingly viable economically as a fuel source, while various groups in the US, from business to states, are likely to forge ahead with plans to reduce carbon emissions and shift away from fossil fuels.

At a time when talk of impeachment sees the Trump administration increasingly under pressure to broaden its appeal to the electorate, the act of leaving the Paris Agreement will do little more than appease the Republicans' hard-line support base, while drawing considerable global contempt after jeopardising global efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.

To that end, Ecofys' researchers subsequently concluded in their report that they, "also note the US NDC to the Paris Agreement itself is not yet consistent with limiting warming to below 2°C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit. If the current policy trajectory under the Trump Administration were codified as an NDC, the CAT would downgrade the US to 'inadequate' from its current rating of 'medium.'"

* The ‘Climate Action Tracker’ is an ‘independent science-based assessment’ that maps out the emission commitments and actions of various countries. The web-based platform provides transparency on the individual commitments of countries toward reducing their carbon footprints that are up-to-date, as well as recording their historic pledges and actions.