India Climate Negotiator Looks on With Dismay as U.S. Energy Data Provider Misses Biden’s Net-Zero Memo (1)

By Mathew Carr

Feb. 26-27, 2021 — LONDON: A former climate negotiator for India, one of the huge developing countries least to blame for the climate crisis, looked on as the U.S. Energy Information Administration apparently missed Joe Biden’s plan to cut emissions to net zero by the middle of the century.

See this chart from earlier this month, showing U.S. energy emissions doing very little over the next three decades:

EIA data: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/08%20AEO2021%20Emissions.pdf

Are big-consuming western countries and China, which are most to blame for global warming, really serious about protecting the climate? asked 72-year old Surya Sethi, former climate negotiator for the world’s second-most-populous nation. He says they are not.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” at United Nations climate talks in Glasgow in November, he said by phone.

The EIA said it expects U.S. emissions to rise in the later half of its projection because “of increasing economic growth that leads to growing industrial energy requirements. EIA projects energy use in transportation will increase as vehicle fuel efficiency plateaus in the mid-2020s and becomes outweighed by increases in vehicle travel demand.”

While many world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden are willing to talk about net zero in the middle of the century, they are very slow to get on that pathway.

The real importance of “zero” in the climate debate is its relevance as the best measure of the level of seriousness of the developed world to tackle their overconsumption problem, Sethi said by phone. China, a key supplier of goods to the west, has been drawn into that system and is now a big part of the problem.

An analysis of updated Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris climate deal published Friday by the UN Climate secretariat showed the increased ambition being offered by countries is tiny, cutting emissions by less than an extra 1% in 2030 vs 2010.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by contrast, has indicated that emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around -45% in 2030 compared to 2010.

The analysis covered submissions up to December last year and includes new or updated NDCs by 75 Parties, which represent approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. See here: https://unfccc.int/news/climate-commitments-not-on-track-to-meet-paris-agreement-goals-as-ndc-synthesis-report-is-published

Oxfam’s Global Climate Policy Lead, Nafkote Dabi, is another who’s far from happy with the situation and responded like this to the UN analysis:

Appalling

Today’s report findings are appalling. The combined climate plans submitted account to a dismal 1% emissions reduction, far below the 45% reduction needed to limit global warming below 1.5 degrees, and avoid disastrous impacts on vulnerable communities.

“While some countries who have contributed least to the climate crisis have increased their ambition, industrial and rich countries most to blame for global emissions, have miserably failed to step up to their responsibility.”

The Paris climate deal was struck in 2015 with much back slapping. Ambition was meant to be ramped up every five years. It’s simply not happening.

Countries are falling way short and Sethi is right. (The U.S. and China are planning to update their emissions mitigation and adaptation plans during the next few months.)

The lack of ambition comes despite the fact it’s almost three decades since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was formed in 1992, Sethi said. It’s way beyond the time when world leaders can pretend they don’t know what’s going on with climate risks.

“The needle will move only when 10,000 Americans die because of climate change,” Sethi said.

Rich-nation voters don’t seem to care so much about the 50,000 Indian farmers committing suicide, partly because of heart-breaking weather events, he said. “One billion Indians will perish” at current warming rates, he said (in what I hope is eye-popping exaggeration, but might not be over the 80 years left in the current century).

See EIA note: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=46736

(Updates Saturday with UN analysis of contributions to the Paris climate deal, Oxfam, more from EIA.)

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