Developing Countries Outlined Details on Their Commitments to Reduce their Global Warming Pollution

As I discussed yesterday, following from Cancun both developed and developing countries reaffirmed their commitments to reduce emissions as noted in the recent United Nations documents.  Developed countries presented details on their commitments, so yesterday it was the turn of developing countries.  Forty-eight developing countries have formally proposed emissions reduction actions and this includes commitments by the major emitters (e.g., Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and South Africa).  Most of the major emitters provided detailed presentation on their target, actions they’ve taken to date, and policies they are putting in place to meet their future target.

From the developing country process* we learned (see my post from yesterday on the developed country session):

  • more about policies they are implementing (some countries provided extensive details while others didn’t outline as much as we need);
  • that countries need additional policies or new regulations to ensure that the objectives of their policy goals are met.  Many countries have a growing list of steps they are taking but none have in place right now the full set of measures to achieve their target (which isn’t surprising at this stage);
  • that there are a number of issues which require greater clarification so hopefully future sessions will provide more detail on these issues (e.g., what sectors and gases are included in their targets, how much will they do without support, and what is the basis for the business-as-usual assumptions that some countries have used for their targets).

What are countries doing right now to reduce emissions and what are their plans for meeting their targets in 2020?  Here is what I learned for some key countries (with a brief summary of the commitments that they formally outlined).

Brazil's deforestation rate and deforestation reduction targetBrazil pledged to reduce emissions growth by 36-39% below business-as-usual levels by 2020 –a level estimated to bring down Brazil's emissions to 1994 levels.  Brazil also pledged to cut deforestation by 80% from historic levels by 2020 (this is a part of the overall economy-wide target and not a separate international commitment).  They presented details on the progress that they have achieved in reducing their deforestation emissions—a 67% decrease in the past 5 years (see figure).  These cuts have been achieved through such efforts as a moratorium on purchases of soy from newly deforested lands, federal regulation and enforcement, and state payment for environmental service programs in some states. 

China has committed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45% from 2005 levels and use non-fossil fuels for about 15 percent of its energy by 2020 (see our assessment of this target).  China has also committed to increase forest cover by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 (from 2005 levels).  During today’s session China presented on the steps that it has taken to date to reduce energy-use and greenhouse gas emissions which have resulted in the country reducing its energy-intensity by 19.1% from 2005-2010 and led to China have the most new clean energy investments in the world the last two years.  Some steps that China has taken as the detailed: 

  • Phase-out of small scale electricity plants equivalent to almost 60 GW (note: we believe this value is larger with recent phase-outs that occurred in 2010) and phased-out small-scale cement, iron steel, and other energy-intensive industries;
  • Adopted mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for most residential and commercial appliances (these are being expanded every year);
  • Vehicle efficiency standards which are more aggressive than some developed countries;
  • Differential electricity pricing that makes electricity more expensive for restricted and eliminated enterprises in certain energy-intensive industries (e.g., iron and steel and cement);
  • Providing subsidies for energy saving air conditioners  which has significantly increased the increased the market share of high efficiency air conditioning units;
  • Incentives for the use of energy saving lamps which have resulted in 300 million energy saving lamps being deployed;
  • Implementing low carbon pilot programs in 5 provinces and 8 cities where the locality establishes a low carbon development plan, establishes policies for low carbon development, promotes low carbon industries, and develops monitoring systems.   

In the next 5 years, the Chinese government has committed to energy and greenhouse gas intensity targets.  While they promised to present further details on the laws and standards that they implement to meet these targets we do know that they have adopted the following targets for 2010-2015:

  • Decreasing energy intensity (energy consumed per unit GDP) by 16% below 2010 levels by 2015;
  • Decreasing carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit GDP) by 17% below 2010 levels by 2015; and
  • Increasing non-fossil energy as a proportion of primary energy to 11.4% by 2015, from the current 8.3%.

India has made a commitment to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP 20-25% below 2005 levels by 2020 (excluding agriculture emissions).  In the presentation, they highlighted several measures that they are taking to meet this goal.  For example, India recently adopted a tax on coal to create a fund for renewable energy.  They have a National Mission to improve energy efficiency, including through adopting appliance efficiency standards and efforts to increase the use of fluorescent lighting (two-thirds of lighting in India is already fluorescent light bulbs, as they outlined).  They are developing a program to scale solar electricity generation to 22,000 MW by 2022 – 600 MW of which has been contracted in 2010 and more will be contracted this year.  They also have efforts to increase renewable energy generation to 72,000 MW by 2022 – currently 9% of installed electricity capacity is from renewable sources and this will take it up to 20%.  And they have a program to increase forest cover by 20 million hectares at an additional cost of $1 million per year.  There are other measures that they didn’t list which NRDC noted in a recent fact sheet.

Indonesia reaffirmed their target to reduce emissions 26% by 2020 from business-as-usual levels.  They outlined that they can cut emissions to 41% below business-as-usual levels by 2020 with international financial assistance.  Unfortunately, Indonesia didn’t prepare to make a detailed presentation so they didn’t share more information on the actions they are taking or planning to meet this target.  There are intense conversations around efforts to help Indonesia reduce deforestation emissions, with the Government of Norway taking the lead in providing finance under certain conditions and other countries such as Australia and the US looking to also aid the effort.   

Mexico announced a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions up to 30% compared to business-as-usual levels by 2020 and up to 50% below 2000 levels by 2050, provided there is adequate financial and technological support.  In the near-term, Mexico has committed to cut CO2 emissions 51 million tons by 2012 through their “Special Climate Change Program” (the PECC).  They outlined that by the end of November 2010 they have reduced emissions by 22 million tons – under half of the way to their 2012 commitment.  Some steps that they outlined include:

  • In national legislation they have adopted a goal of having 35% of their electricity come from “clean energy” by 2024 (including nuclear and large hydro);
  • They have a goal of reducing energy demand by 18% from the baseline by 2030, which they have begun to meet through a standard to phase-out of incandescent light bulbs standard phase-out by 2013 and “green mortgages”.  Around 20% of new houses currently have green mortgages and they expect full coverage by 2020-2030;
  • Efforts to reduce gas flaring from 10% to 0.6% from 2009-2024; and 
  • Achieving net zero emission balance in forestry by 2020.

There are ongoing efforts in Mexico to adopt a package of fuel economy and emissions standards which we hop are adopted soon.

Peru outlined voluntary targets to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2021 and increase renewable energy to at least 33% of the total energy use by 2020.  Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon is about 47% of Peru’s emissions, with agriculture accounting for 19% and energy consumption accounting for 21% of their emissions.  We look forward to more details emerging on the steps that they are taking to meet these objectives.

Singapore has committed to cut emissions by 16% below business-as-usual in 2020 if there is a legally binding agreement.  In the meantime they have started work on measures that will lead to emissions reductions of 7-11% below business-as-usual levels in 2020, which hopefully they’ll outline in greater detail in the future.

South Africa announced a target to reduce emissions growth 34% below business-as-usual levels by 2020 and 42% by 2025 subject to finance, technology, and capacity-building support from the developed world and an international agreement where others act.  They outlined that a national policy process is under way to adopt legislation, regulation, economic instruments, and sectoral strategies.  Some steps have already been taken including a carbon tax on electricity from non-renewable sources, carbon tax on passenger vehicles at the time they are sold, solar water heater incentives, and industrial energy efficiency incentives.  They have just begun to map out the incremental cost of some of the measures (e.g., they estimate that it could cost $55 billion to increase the renewable capacity to 15% of total electricity generation by 2020-2025). 

South Korea GHG emissions reduction targetSouth Korea announced a target to reduce emissions to 30% below projected levels by 2020, which equates to a target of approximately 4 percent below 2005 levels (see figure).  During the presentation they provided more detail on the target and elaborated the steps that they are beginning to implement towards that target.  In 2010, their legislature adopted a “Framework Act on Climate Change”.  A part of that Act is to develop a “GHG emissions and Energy Target Management Scheme”, which will set and implement a target for emissions from public and private entities.  It will cover 61% of South Korea’s emissions with 473 private facilities in 2011– most (378 entities) in the energy and industrial sectors covered in 2011 (more added in future years).  It also includes 773 entities in the public sector.


Sources for the figures: (1) Korea target, available here; (2) Brazil deforestation rate and target, available here.

About the Authors

Jake Schmidt

Director, International program

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