Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Major Economies (MEF) emit nearly three quarters of world CO2

Some facts about MEF nations CO2 emissions

In October the UK is to host the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) meeting of 'leader's representatives'.The MEF was set up by US President Barack Obama to facilitate discussions between developed and developing nations about climate change.

The MEF comprises seventeen major economies - Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the UK, and the United States.

The MEF meeting in London
provides a forum for informal dialogue to help prepare the ground for COP15. National representatives, together with Sweden representing the EU and Denmark in its role as host of the COP15 Copenhagen meeting plus UNFCCC representatives, will take part.

Some facts about CO2 emissions from MEF nations are presented and discussed here. Charts in this post show the percentage of world CO2 emissions attributable to MEF nations (Fig 11.1), and also their rate of increase (Fig 11.2) since 1990 when the Kyoto protocol was negotiated.

The MEF nations were responsible for 74% of world emissions of CO2 in 2006 and their contribution has been rising since then.

Two MEF nations, the USA and China, are by far the worlds largest emitters of CO2 each exceeding 20% of the world total in 2006. The USA and China are both large users of coal, and have considerable coal reserves. Combustion of coal is a major source of CO2 emissions and atmospheric pollutants.

Figure 11.1 MEF Countries % of World CO2 Emissions (click image to enlarge)

For the negotiations in Copenhagen to be meaningful both USA and China will need to agree to large cuts in their annual CO2 emissions or undertake equivalent commitments. Rising emission trends are also a concern since carbon intensive infrastructure (for example power and industrial plant) once in place, has long lifetimes.

Figure11.2 MEF Countries CO2 Emission Trends (click image to enlarge)

Commitments made by USA and China at COP15 will have a major influence on what other nations decide to do, but Copenhagen marks only the beginning of a long process in which all nations must become low carbon economies.

For example, in the future, to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, both USA and China will need to move to a position where they can leave their remaining coal reserves in the ground. Persuading their citizens of the necessity for this will be a massive challenge since it implies momentous changes in lifestyles, technologies and energy use.

US citizens are already very resistant to changes that affect their high energy lifestyle, so the political difficulties are significant. In China the lifestyle aspirations of the population will need to be addressed against a backdrop of environmental impacts due to climate change and population growth.

Such concerns will sit in the background, but shape the national positions taken, in the negotiations at COP15 in December.

Crafting a Copenhagen climate treaty to provide a post-2012 GHG mitigation framework is probably the most difficult diplomatic task that mankind has ever faced. Understanding the issues affecting other nations is important in negotiating an agreement. Less formal meetings such as the MEF meeting to take place in London can help mutual understanding.

While all nations will look at the commitments made by the two largest CO2 emitters with great care, they will also look at other high emitters (Fig.11.1). Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Canada and the UK contributed, as a group, 22% of world CO2 emissions in 2006 and coal dependence is evident as an issue for several MEF nations including Russia and India.

The EU, which includes Germany, the UK and Italy, but participates in the MEF as a single entity representing the 27 EU nations, is also a significant emitter of CO2. EU countries include coal dependent economies such as Poland.

The EU has already unilaterally committed to 20% GHG emissions cuts by 2020 and will extend this to 30% if other nations take on similar targets.

Without a doubt the example set by nations with large CO2 emissions, developed or developing, will influence the response of others.

Since MEF nations contribute nearly three quarters of world CO2 emissions the commitments that MEF nations make to climate change mitigation in Copenhagen will be critical to success or failure.

It is to be hoped that the discussions of MEF 'leaders representatives' in London will help to generate mutual understanding prior to Copenhagen and will aid the process of reaching agreement at COP15.

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