Friday, November 20, 2009

Narnia plans to reduce emissions by 30% by the year 2020

As we head towards Copenhagen, there will be endless comparison of proposed emission targets.  For example, from the NY Times:

This week, South Korea said it would cut emissions by 30 percent from “business as usual” by 2020. Russia’s president said his country would try to reduce emissions by 25 percent by then, instead of 15 percent as announced earlier. Last week, Brazil promised reductions of about 40 percent below current projections by 2020.

Ah, fractions.

The Narnians and reporters everywhere need to do a bit of math. 30% of what? The simple climate policy public relations trick is to emphasize the percent reduction and de-emphasize the year from which that percent is being calculated. Narnia's 30% could be a reduction from emissions during the Kyoto base year of 1990. It could use the present as the base year. Or it could be a reduction from the business-as-usual projection for the year 2020.

This excerpt about S Korea, Russia and Brazil tells us very little about the actual emissions policy. Russia's emissions are lower than they were in 1990, before the collapse of the Soviet Union [and its greenhouse gas emissions], so it still uses the 1990 baseline. The 25% is not as much a change from today as it sounds. For South Korea and Brazilian, we'd need to know what  "current projections" and "business as usual" are to understand their targets. In both countries, the projections being used are higher than what the countries actually expect would happen.  So the proposed decrease, while laudable, is not as big as it sounds.

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