Estimates for Paris #COP21: what are the chances of a truly global climate agreement?


Already around 170 countries have given their emissions reductions commitments. Their content and ambition levels vary, however. We have listed the key parameters to observe, when comparing the INDC commitments.

Approximately 170 countries have given their intended national determined contributions (INDC) for Paris climate negotiations. These countries are responsible for over 90% of the global emissions.

In terms of global coverage, the starting point for the Paris climate negotiations is surprisingly good. In the EU, the climate agreement is seen to be international if it covers at least 80% of global emissions.

The challenge, however, is that the INDC commitments of different countries are not comparable. The EU, for instance, aims at lowering emissions in absolute terms by at least 40% by 2030 (in comparison with the 1990 emission levels). The EU target is very ambitious, when compared with other countries:

  • Binding agreement: The above mentioned EU commitment is legally binding. Many non-European countries have, however, declared only indicative targets. In the case of developing countries, they are often also conditional and depend on, for example, climate funding, technology support etc.
  • Emissions reductions: The emissions reduction percentages of non-EU countries are typically lower than the 40%, which is what the EU is committing to. For example the US has set the target at 26-28% (in comparison with 2005). Their target year, on the other hand, is 2025, whereas the EU is targeting at 2030. China is aiming at peaking its emissions by 2030 (lowering emissions intensity by 60-65% in comparison with 2005), until then emissions are estimated / allowed to grow in absolute terms.
  • Base year: The EU 40% reduction is especially tight, because the base year is 1990. Most other countries have used a much later base year in their commitments (2005 / 2010 / 2013), when the emissions have typically been much higher in these countries than what they were in 1990.

According to scientists, the ambition level of the current climate commitments is not high enough to limit the rise of the temperature to below 2 degrees, which is the commonly agreed target of the United Nations. It is estimated that the current commitments would limit the temperature rise to +2.7 degrees.

According to Chief Policy Adviser Mikael Ohlström from the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, in the near future it would be important for at least the biggest emitting countries to tighten their commitments closer to the EU’s ambition level:

– We share the common atmosphere and therefore climate actions are necessary in all continents. If all major economies would commit in a fair and balanced way, companies would be offered a level playing field and similar “climate costs” regardless of the country or continent where they operate. This would result in genuine emission reductions instead of just moving the emissions from one country to another (so called carbon leakage).

Read more about EK’s views on COP21:
Carbon pricing – tool for implementing climate targets 
Legally binding climate commitments needed of G20 countries