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A Poker Score Card for COP 21: What They Mean, What They Hide, and How to Compare
April 9, 2016 – 03:59 pm
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A Poker Score Card for COP 21: What They Mean, What They Hide, and How to CompareThis post was written by Authored by Jasmine Hyman of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Gediz Kaya of Gaia Carbon Finance.

All eyes are on Paris as the negotiation window closes upon an international climate agreement that is hopefully, historic. States are promising to take climate action, and by some calculations their cumulative promises cover 90% of global emissions. But most people are wondering, what is actually being promised anyway? However, there is considerable confusion on how they compare to each other, on who is doing what and when, and on how they will be implemented. This blog post is your poker scorecard to understanding what is actually being put on the table in Paris right now. If we’re gambling for climate sanity, these INDCs are the poker chips – and they are all in different currencies.

In COP speak, each national pledge is called an “Intended Nationally-Determined Contribution” (INDCs). To get more details on the INDCs, the International Trading Emissions Association (IETA) has created a that spells out the primary commitments from each of the 155 submissions. We have used this tool to take stock of the different emission reduction strategies on offer. We find two basic approaches to framing the climate promise, actions are either measured from a baseline (based on the past) or a forecast (based on the future). Beyond that, we find three dominant methods for implementing the INDC: a sectoral method, an intensity method, and the establishment of a peak year. Confused yet? And on top of it all, most of the promises use a mix of the methods, leading to genuine confusion within the negotiation halls as to whether or not we are on track for ambitious climate action.

Two Approaches:

  • Emission reductions (ERs) pledged from a baseline. INDCs calculated from a baseline bind a nation to pledge an emission reduction below a historical point, and in this way they can be robust and binding. The USA, EU, Brazil employ this approach, though notably neither the USA nor the EU specify the emissions associated with their baseline. Still, the promise is to reduce emissions beyond a peak year that has already occurred: mitigation starts immediately. 72 of the 155 submitted INDCs use a baseline method.
  • Calculate ERs from forecasted growth. This model provides significant wiggle room because it incorporates a forecast into the future. It action assuming that a certain scenario of economic growth is achieved. For example, Turkey assumes 5% growth annually and 6% increased demand for energy annually, a highly optimistic scenario. By overestimating projected growth and making promises beneath the forecast, developing countries can avoid absolute emission reductions while claiming nonetheless to incorporate a high percentage of their national emissions into the plan. 57 of the 155 submitted INDCs reference a forecasted scenario.
Source: environment.yale.edu
Interesting facts

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