EU warns climate loopholes could lead to CO2 rise

Filed on March 8, 2010

BRUSSELS - Loopholes in the United Nations climate treaties could actually amount to an increase in global climate-warming emissions over the next decade, and must be closed, a draft European Union report shows.

European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will announce her strategy on Tuesday for advancing international climate talks after the conclusion of a weak deal in Copenhagen in December.

An EU report to back that announcement estimates rich countries’ current pledges for carbon dioxide cuts will add up to a reduction of between 13.2 percent and 17.8 percent over the next decade.

The difference comes from the fact that some rich countries have pledged a range of possible cuts.

That would fall far short of the 25-40 percent cut recommended by U.N. scientists to keep temperature rises to within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial temperatures.

Two key loopholes could make the situation even worse, warns the leaked report: the use of spare carbon emissions permits left after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and loose rules on emissions from agriculture and deforestation.

If the spare emissions permits are not eradicated, they could reduce the depth of real-world emissions cuts by rich nations by 6.8 percentage points, warns the report, seen by Reuters on Monday.

In the worst case, that could mean rich countries cut emissions to only 6.4 percent below 1990 levels over the next decade.

Loose rules for emissions from forestry and agriculture could erode 9 percentage points from emissions cuts.

“This would mean that for the lower end of the pledges, we would in fact allow for an increase in developed country emissions of 2.6 percent above 1990 levels,” warns the report. “For the higher end of the pledges, we would only see a 2 percent reduction in relation to 1990.”

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