Toward a new geopolitics of climate for 2030

With less than 60 days to go before COP21, last week marked an important step on the road to a new climate agreement: the 196 participants had until October 1 to share what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under the future agreement. Three-quarters of the world countries published their “Intended nationally determined contribution”, or INDC, in time.

Through this mountain of documents, it is possible to see the map of a profoundly changed world (1), a world where India emits three times more greenhouse gases than the United States and where an average European pollutes less than an Indonesian.
The INDC offers an image of our world in 15 years. If he wants to stabilize the climate in the coming decades, it is on these perspectives, and not on the current situation, that the Paris agreement must be negotiated.

(This article is translated from the original in French: Une nouvelle géopolitique du climat pour 2030)

Middle East and oil producers tempted by resistance

Let's start with those who did not submit their INDC: 47 countries exactly. Approximately one half can be excused: no one will blame South-Sudan or Micronesia if they did not find the time or the means to prepare thorough contribution.
In the other half, those whose absence shows reluctance to do their part, we can find almost all Middle East and many oil producing countries. All members of OPEC but two (Algeria and Ecuador) did not submit in time. Egypt, Syria or Pakistan did not either. It just takes a look at a map to understand that the weak spot of climate change mitigation is now somewhere between the Nile and the Indus...

This is not a coincidence, rather the consequence of international negotiations that intend to regulate a by-product of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emissions, without any regard for the production and trade of coal, oil and gas. This contradiction will have to be solved sooner or later…
The same cause can explain poor contributions from other fossil fuel producers such as Australia and Canada that will remain among the most polluting per capita (respectively 15.3 and 13.6 tonnes CO2 equivalent per capita in 2030).

The emergence of two super-polluters

The other important lesson from the analysis of the INDC is the emergence of China and India as first global emitters, and by far. In 2030, China is expected to emit about 14 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent and India a little more than 9GtCO2e. That means that these two countries will emit as much as the whole world in 1990! United States will be on the third stand of the podium, but far behind with 3.6GtCO2e.

These levels can be partly explained by the huge population of the two countries. But even per capita emissions are expected to grow dramatically: 10 tonnes CO2 equivalent for an average Chinese in 2030, nearly as much as an American the same year, and 6tCO2e pc. for an Indian... Three time more than today!

Evolution of GHG emissions per capita for the 10 largest emitting countries between 1990 and 2030

In 1997, the main goal of the Kyoto Protocol was to reduce emissions from industrialized countries; neither China nor India had any obligation. Today the world has changed: If we really want to cut emissions over the next two decades, then all efforts must be focused on these two countries. If China or India agrees to decrease their projected emission by even a fraction of a percent it would have a much more significant impact than efforts from less emitting countries. Imagine, for example, that a decrease of only 0.5% of Chinese emissions in 2030 will be the equivalent of a drop of 15% in Australia!

New models?

On the other side, some countries have presented ambitious contributions. This is the case of Brazil that plans to divide its emissions per capita by two between 2010 and 2030 to reach 2.6TeqCO2 per capita - a level unmatched among other major polluters and especially remarkable for a country that has yet to develop.
The European Union also deserves to be quoted. Even if its proposal was subject of criticism, by 2030 a European will emit 5.7tCO2e, which is slightly less than an Indonesian the same year... We are still far from a level that would stabilize the climate but no other industrialized country displayed such ambition.

If they live up to their announcements, Brazil and the European Union could become new models in the fight against climate change. The former by showing the path of economic development without greenhouse gas emissions. The later by proving that a developed economy can be decarbonized while remaining prosperous.

(1) all the figures used in this article are derived from my own calculations on the basis of the INDC. Details are available in this article (in French).

For other posts on climate and energy from this blog translated in English, click here.

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