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All the major nations are failing to meet their Paris targets says Nature paper

The Magnificent Paris deal was rubbery-theatre, make-of-it-what-you-will, and with rare diligence here is Nature publishing a paper where a team bothered to check progress. (If only Nature held scientific research as accountable as political deals. MBH98 anyone — where Mann’s hockeystick was accepted by Nature, but not the corrections?)

Lo, Nature does a bit of conspiracy thinking:

“It is easy for politicians to make promises to impatient voters and opposition parties. But it is hard to impose high costs on powerful, well-organized groups. No system for international governance can erase these basic political facts. Yet the Paris agreement has unwittingly fanned the flames by letting governments set such vague and unaccountable pledges.”

Suddenly skeptics are powerful and well-organised groups? Somehow the authors, editors, and reviewers all missed that it costs trillions to change the energy system our civilizations were built on, and millions of voters don’t want to pay. The opposition to this is only organised in the sense that we still hold elections.

In 2015, The Guardian said Paris was where “decades of failure were reversed, and a historic agreement reached.”

Skeptics called the Paris Agreement  a “worthless piece of paper”.

In 2017, Nature said: “All major industrialized countries are failing to meet the pledges they made to cut greenhouse-gas emissions”.

Let’s just revel in the Guardian prophetic success:

Since the pledges were overdone, and few nations will meet them, the obvious question for any nation is Why be the Sacrificial Lamb?

Thanks to ClimateDepot, see their choice cuts.

There’s some pretty strong language from Nature:

Nature, Paris targets, all nations failing, graphic. 2017.

Nature, Paris targets, all nations failing, graphic. 2017.

No major advanced industrialized country is on track to meet its pledges to control the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change. Wishful thinking and bravado are eclipsing reality.

No kidding.

Countries in the European Union are struggling to increase energy efficiency and renewable power to the levels that they claimed they would. Japan promised cuts in emissions to match those of its peers, but meeting the goals will cost more than the country is willing to pay. Even without Trump’s attempts to roll back federal climate policy, the United States is shifting its economy to clean energy too slowly.

The Paris deal had voluntary agreements and no enforcement — I can’t think why this didn’t work:

The Paris agreement offered, in theory, to reboot climate diplomacy by giving countries the flexibility to set their own commitments. As of July 2017, 153 countries have ratified the agreement — 147 of which have submitted pledges to reduce emissions, also known as nationally determined contributions. The idea is that as each country implements its own pledge, others can learn what is feasible, and that collaborative global climate protection will emerge. That logic, however, threatens to unravel because national governments are making promises that they are unable to honour.

The only real power to enforce (thankfully) comes from dedicated namecalling. It works on susceptible individuals, but perhaps not so well on whole nations. If only the fear of being called a global pariah could be measured in kilowatt-hours?

The US is cutting emissions faster than pretty much every other nation, but they still aren’t doing enough:

… in 2015, the administration of former president Barack Obama pledged to cut emissions in the United States to 26–28% below 2005 levels by the year 2025. Yet the country was probably only ever on track to cut its emissions by 15–19%.

The US promised big, but that’s an impressive “gap” on the graph (right) between hope and change.

Japan pledged to cut 26% (like the magic number of the Paris convention —  “26”):

But …  the Japanese government is unlikely to meet its aim to supply 20–22% of electricity from carbon-free nuclear power by 2030; our analysis suggests that 15% is more likely. Today, just 5 of the country’s 42 nuclear reactors are producing electricity.

Still infinitely more nuclear power than Australia.

European plans are “extremely ambitious” — did the authors say that before the agreement was made?

 European plans to shrink energy use by 27–30% by the year 2030 compared with the business-as-usual scenario are extremely ambitious. Progress is dogged by the weak building regulations of member countries, poor enforcement of minimum standards and double counting of energy savings from overlapping policies.

Even when taxes are levied, emissions don’t change much — see Korea and Mexico:

Mexico and South Korea have introduced schemes that levy charges on those who use energy and emit carbon dioxide, and other policies aimed at increasing energy efficiency and the adoption of cleaner energy. But emissions are not changing much in either country, calling their pledges into question. If South Korea mothballs many of its nuclear power plants, as the current government has suggested, the gap will only grow.

The authors keep mentioning nukes.

There’s a clue here about complexity and transparency:

Most pledges are almost silent on the range of policies being used, making it difficult to discern which are actually effective. The EU, for example, submitted little information about the complex pledge-implementation process that is already under way. The gap between promise and action is especially large for the strategies that governments are using to boost energy efficiency, for which the real costs are often opaque.


h/t ClimateDepot


David G. Victor, Keigo Akimoto, Yoichi Kaya, Mitsutsune Yamaguchi, Danny Cullenward & Cameron Hepburn (2017) Prove Paris was more than paper promises, Nature 548,    25–27()doi:10.1038/548025a

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