India, Dozens of Nations File Climate Pledges at Deadline

Energy and Climate Report provides current, thorough coverage of clean energy, efficiency, and climate change legislation, regulation, policy, legal developments, and trends in the U.S. and...

By Eric J. Lyman

Oct. 1 — The United Nations deadline of Oct. 1 for voluntary national pledges of actions to confront climate change sparked a flurry of last-minute activity, including a plan from India that one major entity tracking the submissions says would contain global warming to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

As of the deadline for submissions, 147 countries representing around 85 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are covered by 120 separate pledges, which the UN calls Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs.

Seventy-four of the pledges, more than half of the total, came within the past four days, including those from India, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Argentina and Brazil.

With the last-minute submission from India, the world's fourth-largest emitter behind China, the U.S., and the European Union, which filed less than four hours before the deadline, all of the world's major emitters are now included. Thepledges were made in advance of UN-sponsored talks In Paris in less than two months seeking a legally binding global agreement on climate change.

Specifics of India's Pledge

India pledged to cut its “emissions intensity” relative to gross domestic product by 33 percent to 35 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

It also said it would obtain 40 percent of its electricity from “nonfossil fuel based energy sources by 2030” with international assistance, and plant enough trees by 2030 to “create an additional carbon sink” of at least 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

According to Climate Action Tracker, a nongovernmental group that monitors INDCs, the pledges submitted so far would result in global warming of around 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, assuming no further steps were taken.

That is still more warming than the target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) that countries agreed to in 2009, but Climate Action Tracker said it represents the first time since the 2 degree target was established that projected warming fell below 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Climate Action Tracker estimate includes approximate data from countries that made 11th-hour submissions likeIndia, Argentina and Thailand, which had all revealed parts of their INDCs in recent weeks.

“The INDC process has clearly led to progress, but it is clear that in Paris governments must consider formally acknowledging that the first round of climate plans for 2025 and 2030 will not hold global warming below 2 degrees,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, one of the three main groups that make up Climate Action Tracker.

‘Stepping Stone'

Other groups said that despite the surge in INDC submissions, the process is leaving the hardest work for negotiations following the Nov. 30–Dec. 11 Paris summit, which could finalize the world's first legally binding global climateagreement.

“We can now conclude that national pledges have fallen short, and we, therefore, call for scaled up ambition,” said Mattias Soderberg, co-chairman of the ACT Alliance Climate Change Advisory Group, another leading environmental lobby organization. “The most important result from Paris will be to create a stepping stone that can be sued to increase actions in the coming years.”

The UN has said that countries that submit their INDCs after the Oct. 1 deadline will not be included in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change synthesis report to be released Nov. 1. The synthesis report will be a basis for small group negotiations leading up to the start of the Paris talks and for discussions in Paris itself.