Developed Nations Slow to Reduce Carbon Output: Report

Computer Rendering of Carbon Emission Volume

By Jonny Wakefield

September 11, 2014

The global economy is not moving away from carbon-based energy sources fast enough to keep global warming from spiraling out of control, the latest climate report from PricewaterhouseCoopers has found. Canada is among the key culprits of inaction.

The U.K.-based professional service firm's 2014 index of carbon reduction efforts reports that, for the sixth consecutive year, the world economy has missed the decarbonization target needed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

At the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's 2009 Copenhagen conference, countries agreed to work towards holding global temperature increases to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

According to the report, a decarbonization rate of 6 percent annually was needed to stay within the two-degree envelope. Instead, the world economy reduced its emissions by just 1.2 per cent in 2013.

The failure to meet targets over the past six years continues to raise the stakes for future carbon reductions. The world economy must now reduce its carbon emissions by 6.2 percent a year to avoid cataclysm, according to the PwC report.

At the current rate, we'll have emitted the century-long carbon "budget" by 2034, meaning the climate is projected to warm an average of four degrees Celsius by the year 2100. 

The report had little good to say about the progress of the G7, of which Canada is a part. While all G7 members set emissions reduction targets at the UNFCCC's 2010 conference in Cancun, those targets are generally thought to be too low. Based on those numbers, the G7 would be decarbonizing at a rate of 3.7 percent per year. Because the pledges are voluntary, the report notes, countries are not meeting even those targets.

At the 2010 Cancun summit, Canada pledged to reduce its greenhouse emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. According to the PwC report, Canada's carbon intensity (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted divided by the size of a country's economy) dropped 2.5 percent in 2013. That drop is better than its five-year average carbon intensity reduction (1.9 percent), but is still not up to the UNFCCC goals.

At the same time, G7 reductions are failing to offset new emissions from countries in the E7—a group of emerging economies that includes China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Russia.

One piece of good news was the G7 economies' projected investment in clean energy: $7.7 trillion U.S. between now and 2030.

The 2015 UNFCCC convention, the 11th meeting of the Kyoto Protocol signatories, is generally considered our last best chance at curbing climate disaster.