With the next round of UN Climate talks beginning on Monday in the Mexican resort town of Cancun, it’s a good time to catch up on some climate-related reading. Here are three recent reports worth having a look at. I also recommend signing up to the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s youth delegation updates, for regular news on what the international youth climate movement is up to at the conference.
The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) 2009 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.
The WMO report, released on 24 November, shows that carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are all now at record levels in the atmosphere, despite the economic downturn. According to the Bulletin, the presence of all major greenhouse gases increased by 27.5 per cent from 1990 to 2009. It also highlights scientists concerns about the “tipping point” effect of rising greenhouse gas emissions on methane leaking from the northern permafrost (Arctic). WMO, through its Global Atmosphere Watch Programme, coordinates the observations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through a network of stations located in more than 50 countries, including high in the Andes and Himalayas. The measurement data are quality controlled, archived and distributed by WMO’s World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases, hosted by the Japan Meteorological Agency. The 2009 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin is the sixth in the series, which began in 2004.
Emissions Gap Report, compiled by the UN Environment Program (UNEP)
Over 30 scientists from international research institutes jointly authored this report, released by UNEP on 23 November. They found that the international community can deliver 60% of the emission cuts required to help the planet avoid two degrees warming above pre-industrial levels if all nations fully implement their Copenhagen Accord pledges. The report works with estimates that, in order to have a ‘likely’ and cost-effective chance of keeping temperatures to 2 degrees or below over the next century, global emissions will need to have peaked within the next 10 years and be around 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020. The report, whose compilation was led by the UNEP Chief Scientist, finds that:
- Under a business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of greenhouse gases could be around 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020. As a point of reference, global emissions were estimated to be around 48 gigatonnes in 2009;
- Fully implementing the pledges and intentions associated with the Copenhagen Accord could, in the best case identified by the group, cut emissions to around 49 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020;
- This would leave a gap of around 5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent that needs to be bridged over the coming decade-an amount equal to the emissions of all the world’s cars, buses and trucks in 2005;
- In the worst case identified in the report – where countries follow their lowest ambitions and accounting rules set by negotiators are lax rather than strict – emissions could be as high as 53 gigatonnes in 2020, only slightly lower than business as usual projections.
ACFID Report on REDD, ‘Can Money Grow on Trees?’
ACFID is the national association of Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) working in the field of international aid and development. In early November they released a report with the Australia Institute, authored by ANU’s Andrew McIntosh, warning that future carbon offsetting schemes which involve forests and land use in developing countries carry significant risks for Australian investment. The report identifies a number of challenges for future Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD) schemes and makes recommendations for how these can be overcome, focusing on governance, social safeguards and transparency. Download the research paper here.
Deforestation and changes in land use are currently responsible for up to 12% of the world’s carbon emissions. “Well-designed REDD schemes can help reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and promote more sustainable futures in developing countries. However, we need to make sure that REDD schemes are designed to reduce their possible negative side-effects,” said Dr McIntosh.