What’s the baseline?

The Copenhagen conference starts in three months and this blog will cover key negotiation issues. Let’s start with the framework for negotiation, OK?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change dates to the June 1992 Earth Summit. The overwhelming majority of nations are parties to this agreement — even the United States, which did not ratify the followup Kyoto Protocol. Essentially, for 20 years the world has been negotiating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions based on reductions from a 1990 baseline.

The United States wants to change the baseline date — to 2005!

The climate change legislation in the U.S. Congress, for example, calls for a 17% reduction in emission by 2020…from a 2005 baseline.

Why does the U.S. want to change the game?

The answer can be explained quite simply. As the Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2006, the U.S. has averaged a 1% annual increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. Essentially, the increase in U.S. emissions “dwarf” any reductions attributable to Kyoto worldwide.

The U.S. wants to reset the negotiations because it basically spent 20 years ignoring the last set of requirements.

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  • Sophie Timms

    Really looking forward to following this blog. Can I ask, is the US unique in this respect? Surely it’s not the only country to have missed/ignored the Kyoto targets (I’d guess most of the major powers must have increased their production of greenhouse gasses since 1990?), but is the US the only country that wants the baseline changed? If so, why has it taken a different negotiating position to other states? Or are a number of countries looking for a similar change in the baseline?

  • Toby

    Sophie – Canada’s emissions have risen at a rate of 1.9 per cent annually, 22 per cent since 1990 – and it is advocating a 2006 baseline I believe – so the US certainly isn’t unique. This is in contrast to other developed countries -such as the UK for example – whose emmissions have dropped about 12-15% since 1990. Globally, emissions are still rising as a result of some developed countries like Canada and the US, and developing contries like China, India etc.

  • With this post, I should have noted that the EU too recently changed the proposed baseline target to 2005. Its 2008 energy and climate package made this move despite the opposition of some member-states (like like Poland), which wanted to keep the 1990 level.

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