Volume 88 Issue 6 | p. 12 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 8, 2010

Promising To Control Emissions

Climate Change: U.S., China, others pledge to limit greenhouse gases
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Climate Change, Green Chemistry, Sustainability
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: climate change, Copenhagen Accord
De Boer
Credit: Cheryl Hogue/C&EN
De Boer
Credit: Cheryl Hogue/C&EN

Dozens of countries are joining the new Copenhagen Accord climate agreement, promising to control their emissions of greenhouse gases.

As of early February, the United Nations had received pledges from the U.S., China, and more than 30 other countries to limit their national emissions by 2020. Together, these nations account for 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions from energy use, according to the UN.

A handful of world leaders hammered out the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord in December 2009 after UN climate negotiations on a binding climate treaty resulted in a stalemate (C&EN, Jan. 4, page 8). The deal does not specify numbers for emission controls and allows each nation to set its own targets. But the Copenhagen Accord marks the first time that developing countries have agreed to limit their greenhouse gases releases.

Major emerging economies with fast-growing emissions—namely Brazil, China, India, and South Africa—are among those making pledges under the accord. Mexico and South Korea also laid out plans to limit their emissions, as did a few small countries with minuscule emissions, such as the Maldives and Costa Rica.

More than two dozen other developing countries, including some of the world’s poorest nations, associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord but did not make emission pledges.

The U.S. submission restated President Barack Obama’s goal, announced in November 2009, of cutting domestic emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, dependent on Congress passing new climate and energy legislation (C&EN, Nov. 30, 2009, page 8).

Other industrialized countries making pledges included Australia, Canada, Japan, and Russia.

These pledges “show a commitment to collective, transparent action on a scale never seen before,” says Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Resources Institute’s climate and energy program. “The U.S. should have no doubt that these countries plan to build their economies with clean energy.”

“This represents an important invigoration of the UN climate-change talks,” says Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official. The pledges are not enough to stave off severe climate change, he says, but they are signals that countries are willing to finish negotiations on a binding climate treaty.

The UN climate talks will resume in May, de Boer adds.

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