18. What are the main national commitments and international accords that will serve as the basis for negotiations at the Paris Conference?

At the end of 2014, China and the United States, the two biggest emitters of carbon on the planet accounting for 40% of total emissions, concluded a climate agreement. The United States committed itself to reduce GHG emissions by 26% to 28% compared to its 2005 level by 2025. China, for its part, committed to having its GHG emissions peak in 2030, and to having the share of its energy not coming from fossil fuels climb to 20%.(43)

At a G7 meeting in June 2015, the United States, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom committed to transforming their energy sectors by 2050 in order to help reduce global GHG emissions by 40% to 70% compared to 2010 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2100.(44)

On August 3, 2015, the President of the United States unveiled the “Clean Power Plan,” which is a detailed action plan to allow the country to achieve its GHG reduction goals. The plan essentially rests on the imposition of pollution standards on power plants. New objectives were also announced: By 2030, GHG emissions must have been reduced to 32% below 2005 levels.(45)

In 2014, the European Union had concluded an accord to reduce emissions to 40% below their 1990 level by 2030.(46) In September 2015, the European Union’s 28 Environment Ministers confirmed their commitment by targeting the year 2020 as a peak for their emissions, and 2050 for a 50% reduction below their 1990 level.(47)

While these agreements seem encouraging, they only represent the contributions already proposed, which are insufficient for respecting the 2°C limit, as we shall see at Question 19. Moreover, it is quite possible that the agreements represent trends that the leaders of the various countries think they will be able to achieve with little effort. For instance, a study from the China Academy of Social Sciences estimates that the slowing down of the rate of urbanization in China means that emissions should naturally reach a peak around 2025 or 2030.(48)

43. The White House Office of the Press Secretary, “FACT SHEET: U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation,” Press release, November 11, 2014.
44. “Why the G7 is talking about decarbonisation,” The Economist, June 10, 2015.
45. The White House, Climate Change and President Obama’s Action Plan.
46. These are the targets they submitted to the UNFCCC as INDCs. See Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, “Submission by Latvia and the European Commission on Behalf of the European Union and its Member States,” March 6, 2015, p. 1; Arthur Neslen, “EU leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030,” The Guardian, October 24, 2014.
47. Barbara Lewis, “EU ministers unite on climate mandate ahead of Paris summit,” Reuters, September 18, 2015.
48. David Stanway, “UPDATE 3-China, US agree limits on emissions, but experts see little new,” Reuters, November 12, 2014.

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