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The good and bad surprises of the INDCs

Climate & Environment

The good and bad surprises of the INDCs

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines supported Taiwan's INDC.

[Jason Pratt/Flickr]

The Paris climate negotiations hinge on the voluntary national contributions; the climate promises that states, in theory, were supposed to publish in early spring. Our partner Journal de l’Environnement reports

Some late-comers like Bhutan have used the COP21 to gloss over their 9 month delay. According to the latest count from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 186 countries have submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the COP21, either individually or as part of a group (like the EU 28).

These 186 countries are responsible for 90% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

While positive, this has not lived up to the objective set by the conference participants. Many evaluations of the INDCs have already been run, and the consensus is that they will only limit global warming to between +2.7 and +3°C by 2100, compared to the pre-industrial era. This is a far cry from the official target of +2°C, or even +1.5°C that may be written into the final Paris agreement.

Using an original method, the climatologists Hélène Benveniste and Olivier Boucher took on the challenge of analysing the INDCs in the weeks running up to the COP21. Their assessment was no brighter than any others.

“In light of these contributions, we estimate that global emissions caused by human activities will vary between 52 and 64 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses in 2030,” Hélène Benveniste said. 49 billion tonnes were officially accounted for in 2010.

But why focus on tonnage, when most other researchers have delivered temperature projections? “Quite simply because the change in temperature will be largely conditioned by actions taken after 2030,” said Olivier Boucher.

The question of whether the insufficient national contributions are sources of inspiration for future generations of climate defenders hinges entirely on which country we look at.

The funniest

Armenia has not given itself too much to worry about. It calculated that over the next 35 years, each Armenian citizen will have a carbon budget of 5.4 tonnes of greenhouse gasses (GHG), but that average per person emissions will only reach 2.1 tonnes of GHG. In an audacious plan, the country plans to sell the balance as international credits on the carbon markets.

The easiest

Responsible for 0.0001% of all human GHG emissions, the island state of Niue also has very little effort to make. In fact, thanks to its forest and its extensive maritime exclusive economic zone (300,000 KM2), this small Pacific island (260 KM2) sees itself as a net carbon sink. But this has not reduced the effort on their part: the former British protectorate hopes to produce 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. If it receives enough international aid.

Showing the most solidarity

In the fight against climate change, as in business, there are project leaders. And this is precisely the role taken on by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Caribbean country plans to reduce its emissions by 22% by 2025, thanks to the commissioning of a geothermal power station.

In a show of solidarity, this nation of 32 islands also announced that it would support the contribution of Taiwan. Not a party to the UNFCCC (for the sake of relations with China), Taiwan none the less published a national contribution, which was promoted in the media by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The most nautical

In Palau, a diver’s paradise, life is lived as much on the water as on the 260 islands that make up the archipelago, situated half way between Indonesia and the Philippines. This is why one of the crucial facets of Palau’s INDC focusses on strengthening the legislation on the performance of outboard motors. The text also announces a factory for converting cooking oil into… cooking fuel.

The healthiest

Since the fall of the Soviet bloc, which bought Cuban sugar, the Communist Caribbean country has not had a big export market, apart from medical services and products. But this has not stopped the emergence of new diseases in the biggest Caribbean country. As a result, the Cuban INDC foresees the construction of new hospitals. You can never be too careful.

The most daring

Fiji has ambition to burn. Responsible for just 0.04% of GHG emissions, the Pacific archipelago still plans to cut its emissions by a third compared to a business as usual scenario. What is more, it plans to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources. But this land, so blessed by the Gods of Rugby, plans to finance these investments using revenue from selling Clean Development Mechanism credits, a system that is today in almost complete disarray.

The most agricultural

Burundi does not beat around the bush. It presents itself as “A State that promotes development that is resilient to the harmful effects of climate change.” According to the funds it can mobilise, this small East African country plans to cut its GHG emissions by anything from 3% to 30% between 2005 and 2030.

To secure its food supply, Burundi will boost agricultural productivity, by intensifying and diversifying its production, but particularly by facilitating access to fertilisers. The Achilles heel of this plan is that as nitrogen fertilisers decompose in the soil, they release large quantities of nitrous oxide, a GHG 310 times more powerful than CO2.

The most speculative

Niger is focussing its attention on green energy to achieve GHG emissions reductions of between 2.5% and 25%. By 2030, the country hopes to produce two thirds of its electricity from wind turbines and photovoltaic cells. These investments will be financed by the sale of international credits, on the condition that the price of carbon reaches $50 per tonne. We can only hope.