While many observers are characterizing the UN COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen using varying degrees and descriptors of failure, there has been some forward progress in one of the components of the Copenhagen Accord. Annex I Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change committed to disclose quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020, and to submit them to the secretariat by January 31, 2010.
Those reduction targets have begun to trickle in and the United Nations Environmental Program has just launched a website that tracks the carbon dioxide reduction pledges made by countries and the remaining gap for reaching global climate change mitigation goals.
Keep in mind that these pledges have various levels of legal authority behind them. In the case of the United States, for example, since no actual reductions target has been signed into law, the U.S. pledge is based on an amalgamation of possible legislative outcomes, considering the current bills being considered: the Kerry-Boxer Bill reduces GHG emissions by 17% in 2020; the Waxman-Markey Bill reduces GHG emissions by 20% in 2020 and President Obama's pledge is to cut emissions by 17%.
The U.S. "pledge" then works out to be a 17 percent reduction by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 based on 2005 levels. In 1990 terms (baseline year used in Kyoto) those reductions would work out to be 3% by 2020.
Gaps between necessary CO2 reductions and pledges widens by 2050
The website also presents in stark contrast the difference between emissions cut pledges and emissions cut goals. It shows the remaining gap to reach emission levels needed for a 50% chance of keeping the global temperature increase below 2˚C over pre-industrial level.
The total height of the bars represents the global emissions in a Business As Usual (BAU) scenario. Light yellow sections represent the global emission reductions if current low reduction pledges are implemented. Dark yellow sections illustrate the global emissions reductions if current high reduction pledges are implemented.
Red sections represent the remaining gap between the current pledges and the emission levels needed to reach the 2°C goal. The emission levels needed to achieve the 2˚C goal are illustrated by the green sections.
One doesn't need to be a trained statistician to see that there is a substantial variance between where we are headed and where we "need" to be. The site and graphics will be continuously updated with new pledges, mitigation commitments and information from country parties.