In recent months optimism has been growing that the 2015 Paris COPMOP will see an international deal on the restriction of carbon emissions.
This has partly been due to the favourable reaction to the plan produced by the US Environmental Protection Agency in response to instructions from President Obama. It is proposed to use existing statutory powers in the federal Clean Air Act (and thus by-pass Congress) to require the states to cut carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power stations by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. As an alternative, there is a more modest proposal which would place less emphasis on energy efficiency by states that have been behindhand in that area, and cut emissions by 23% below 2005 levels by 2025.
It is also understood that China will set a cap on its emissions under the next Five Year Plan.
The mood of optimism engendered by these proposals has encouraged the UK Government to publish a document this September setting out how it envisages achieving a global agreement.
This places the emphasis on cuts by the developed world, with greater latitude allowed to developing nations such as those in the Middle East, Africa and also India.
A fly in the ointment was provided by the decision of the Commonwealth Parliament in Australia to repeal the legislation providing for an emissions trading scheme and carbon tax. This is to be replaced by a more limited scheme to encourage certain industrial operators to reduce carbon emissions through a system of subsidies.
The Australian Government has indicated, under pressure from cross-benchers in the Senate, where it does not have an overall majority, that it is prepared to reintroduce some form of emissions trading scheme if its principal trading partners follow suit. However, this falls short of the insight of politicians in the US and the EU that to achieve progress it is necessary for developed countries to be seen to be setting an example.
It would nevertheless be wrong to cast the Australians as villains. As the article on the EU ETS in this edition of Carbon Matters indicates, there are significant problems with that trading scheme. This is one of the key planks in the EU’s portfolio of measures to reduce carbon emissions in Europe, and it appears that more radical action than is currently proposed will be needed if the scheme is to be effective. That will almost be as important as securing a deal at the 2015 COPMOP.