This December the UN seeks again to reach a global agreement to cut carbon dioxide output. The new agreement will take the form of a legally enforceable protocol and legal instrument attached to past agreements. It will come into force in 2020. The advocates wish to limit the earth to a 2 degree temperature rise, and believe that if the world cuts human generated carbon dioxide emissions by enough this precision in temperature control can be achieved. There is little comment on the other variables which might have an impact on the weather and climate in 2050 and 2100.
We now know the offers of the three main players. China, the world’s largest source of human CO2 emissions (25% of world total) has indicated that it should reach peak output of carbon dioxide by 2030. In the meantime it will build up renewable electricity generating capacity to limit the rise in carbon output it plans. The USA (11% of world total) under Mr Obama wishes to make a contribution, and has offered to cut its emissions by 28% in 2025 compared to a 2005 base level. The EU (9% of world total) acting on behalf of all member states is enthusiastic about the process. It has offered a “binding, economy wide, domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 40% by 2030”. This is compared to a 1990 base.
The fact that China’s emissions will grow mean that advocates of this policy will be disappointed by the offers so far made collectively by the main creators of greenhouse gases. Once again the response of the world is asymmetric, with the EU offering the biggest cuts. This will continue to expose the EU to the need to substitute dearer energy for cheaper energy, and will limit EU competitiveness. Whilst markets are understandably concentrating on the tribulations of the Euro, the EU’s climate policy is also going to have quite an impact on EU costs, and divert more industry out of the EU altogether. At least this process will cut the EU’s carbon footprint but it will also boost the footprint of those places that sell us the industrial products that become displaced.