Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Is the Paris Climate Deal Fatally Flawed?

The climate change pact that emerged out of the 2015 Paris climate summit has been hailed as an environmental breakthrough. It reached consensus on a target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and committed each signatory nation to set ambitious goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions.  So far so good even if the promises were voluntary and there would be no real penalties for nations that didn't keep their pledges.

Now another flaw is emerging - the failure of some major polluters to accurately log their greenhouse gas emissions. In some cases the numbers are understated, in others they're wobbly as hell.

Potent, climate-warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found.

Among the key provisions of the Paris climate deal, signed by 195 countries in December 2015, is the requirement that every country, rich or poor, has to submit an inventory of its greenhouse-gas emissions every two years.

Under UN rules, most countries produce "bottom-up" records, based on how many car journeys are made or how much energy is used for heating homes and offices.

Another rare warming gas, carbon tetrachloride, once popular as a refrigerant and a solvent but very damaging to the ozone layer, has been banned in Europe since 2002.

But Dr Reimann told Counting Carbon: "We still see 10,000-20,000 tonnes coming out of China every year."

"That is something that shouldn't be there.

"There is actually no Chinese inventory for these gases, as they are banned and industry shouldn't be releasing them anymore."

China's approach to reporting its overall output of warming gases to the UN is also subject to constant and significant revisions.

Its last submission ran to about 30 pages - the UK's, by contrast, runs to several hundred

Back in 2007, China simply refused to accept, in official documents, that it had become the largest emitter of CO2.


For a country such as India, home to 15% of the world's livestock, methane is a very important gas in their inventory - but the amount produced is subject to a high degree of uncertainty.

"What they note is that methane emissions are about 50% uncertain for categories like ruminants, so what this means is that the emissions they submit could be plus or minus 50% of what's been submitted," said Dr Anita Ganesan, from the University of Bristol, who has overseen air monitoring research in the country.

"For nitrous oxide, that's 100%."

There are similar uncertainties with methane emissions in Russia, of between 30-40%, according to scientists who work there.

"What we're worried about is what the planet experiences, never mind what the statistics are," said Prof Euan Nisbet, from Royal Holloway, University of London.

"In the air, we see methane going up. The warming impact from that methane is enough to derail Paris."

Prof Glen Peters, from the Centre for International Climate Research, in Oslo, said: "The core part of Paris [is] the global stock-takes which are going to happen every five years, and after the stock-takes countries are meant to raise their ambition, but if you can't track progress sufficiently, which is the whole point of these stock-takes, you basically can't do anything.

"So, without good data as a basis, Paris essentially collapses. It just becomes a talkfest without much progress."

It's unclear from the BBC report whether the methane referenced is from human activity - livestock production, etc. - or includes Arctic methane from seabed clathrates or thawing permafrost, a natural feedback loop of the sort that scientists fear may trigger truly runaway global warming.

The Arctic region is so sparsely populated and so inaccessible that it's all but impossible to accurately monitor the natural release of methane that's underway and accelerating. Then again the Paris agreement was all about man-made emissions and national commitments to slash those greenhouse gases.

1 comment:

Toby said...

I put paid to the Paris agreement as soon as I heard Trudeau promoting the 1.5 degree nonsense and pipelines. It's too late for 1.5 and counterproductive to keep selling tar. Trudeau is a phony. I should have twigged when he selected a trade lawyer for the Environment portfolio.