Though North American and Western European countries have long been the largest emitters of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, the economies of fast growing developing countries, particularly in Asia, are quickly making up for lost time and ground. China’s rapid industrialization and reliance on conventional coal plants has in a relatively very short time span put it in on a par with that of the U.S. in terms of CO2 emissions, while emissions in rapidly industrializing countries across the Asian continent and around the world are growing faster than elsewhere, a trend that’s forecast to continue for the next few decades.
This divergence has been a contentious “sore” spot between industrialized and industrializing countries as their representatives seek to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, and the workings of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, the principal technology transfer mechanism for developing emissions reduction projects in developing countries.
Seeking to bridge the divide, researchers at the United Nations Environment Program’s Risoe Center in Copenhagen are proposing a set of “no lose” targets for developing nations’ electricity sectors post-2012. Addressing weaknesses in the CDM, they advocate making structural changes that they believe would facilitate achieving significant CO2 reductions in developing countries’ power sectors. Keys to their recommendations are a method for establishing national power sector emissions baselines and credit targets post-2012 for seven large CO2 emitting developing countries, and assessing the amount of potential emissions reductions and credits that could be achieved using them as a reference.
Targeting Power Sector Emissions Reductions in Developing Countries
“With current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades: CO2 emissions between 2000-2030 from energy use are projected to grow 45-110 percent over the period. Two-thirds to three-quarters of this increase is projected to come from non-Annex I [developing] countries,” according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report.
The Risoe Center researchers aim to improve the CDM’s ability to affect broader scale structural changes and enhance the integrity of CDM projects in developing countries by adopting a “sectoral approach” and addressing two key CDM requirements that have spurred criticism for their questionable integrity: that of “additionality”–whether or not a project would have taken place without CDM approval and credit issuance – and whether or not the emissions reductions are “real” in the first place.
The authors analyzed the power sectors of seven high emissions producing developing economies–China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, Kyoto Protocol signatories all – in order to come up with what they view as a better way for the CDM to provide incentives for these countries to reduce emissions in their power sectors without sacrificing further economic development. These seven countries accounted for 75% of the total amount of emissions in the electricity sector by all non-Annex I Kyoto Protocol countries in 2005.
The new method they propose in their study, entitled “Electricity sector no-lose targets in developing countries for post-2012,” seeks to do this by taking into account the average efficiency of fossil fuel power plants and the generation mix of the different countries’ power sectors.
Coal and gas power plants that come on-line in these countries between 2005 and 2020 would need to have an average conversion efficiency between 40%-50% respectively, and 12% of electricity generation that comes on-line during this period – based on net new capacity in the 2005 baseline year–would need to rely on sources other than coal, standards that set the bar pretty high in relation to corresponding present day figures.
Between 410 and 540 million metric tons of CO2 reduction credits could be generated between 2012 and 2020 as a result, however, according to the researchers, providing financial incentives to achieve them. The credits would be allocated proportionally according to each countries’ share of total emissions reductions, with China garnering most of them in the researchers’ hypothetical scenario.
“Through non-binding (no-lose) sectoral crediting targets, developing countries could voluntarily reduce their emissions and gain financial support from developed countries if they do better than the target,” the authors write. “No penalties would occur if the target is not met. The target could be set in relation to national emission intensities stimulating developing countries to continue their development in a less carbon intensive direction.”
They go on to recommend that target levels be set below the emissions level estimated for a ‘business as usual’ scenario and that they could be negotiated and approved at the international level. Reductions greater than the target would result in earning reduction credits, a minimum value for which might be set for a specified period of time.