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Mat Hope

Mat Hope

09.09.2014 | 5:20pm
International policyThe UK’’s plan for a new global climate deal
INTERNATIONAL POLICY | September 9. 2014. 17:20
The UK’’s plan for a new global climate deal

The government today released a report outlining what it wants from a new international climate deal.

World leaders are due to meet in New York later this month to add impetus to negotiations, with a deal set to be agreed in Paris at the end of 2015.

Here’s what the UK is hoping for.

‘Fair’ commitments from all countries

The 70 page document makes it clear that the UK expects all countries to commit to making emissions cuts. It doesn’t expect all the commitments to be the same, however.

“Countries will need to make the low-carbon transition in a way that reflects their national situation, the opportunities available to them, and both their relative past and future contributions to climate change”, the report says.

It suggests a three-tiered system where countries make commitments based on their different levels of economic development. That wouldn’t be a radical departure from the current system. The United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has already enshrined the idea of common but differentiated responsibilities in a similar way.

The world’s most advanced economies should seek to cut emissions by 34 to 74 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2030, the report says. Such cuts should allow governments to keep their commitment of curbing warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. The report names the EU, US, Japan, Canada and Australia as actors it expects to adopt policies to meet this goal.

Developing economies are also be expected to make commitments, though to a lesser extent.

China needs to aim to cut emissions by 33 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, it says. The report is careful not to demand this target, however. Instead, the government simply “hope [China’s] commitment will reflect this”.

India’s emissions “are expected to grow in the near term”, the report says. But it recommends the country’s emissions peaking “around or shortly after 2030”.

The report doesn’t outline any specific targets for the world’s least developed economies. Instead, it says they should seek to “embark on low-carbon development pathways” with developed economies’ support.


The UK wants countries to set their own targets and choose how to meet them. Targets will “vary in type (e.g. economy wide targets, energy intensity targets, sectoral targets) and in the level of ambition”, the report says.

It says some countries could work towards cutting emissions by a set amount each year, while others could aim to make their economies less carbon intensive.

Countries should be encouraged to implement a suite of policies which suits their specific needs, the report says – from rolling out carbon trading, to implementing power plant emissions performance standards and fuel efficiency regulations.

Legally binding

The document also makes it clear the UK wants “a legally binding deal”. It doesn’t elaborate what form this could take, however.

One option is for it to be an international treaty, like the Kyoto Protocol that it is designed to replace. The US senate is unlikely to ratify such a deal, however.

Another option is for the new deal to stay as a non-ratified treaty, which the US and rest of the world takes as binding even without Senate ratification. How effective such a deal would be is debatable, however.

Instead, countries may seek a political accord similar to that signed at a previous meeting in Copenhagen. That would sidestep the US congress, but may not be seen as ambitious enough by some actors.

The UK has laid out its expectations, however vaguely, early on in the negotiation process. Only time will tell if it manages to get the deal it wants.

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