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10 June 2010

Rich nations could increase emissions under pledge loopholes, UN data shows

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Analysis seen at Bonn climate talks shows rich nations could use carbon accountancy tricks to increase their emissions by up to eight per cent

Developing countries were yesterday shocked by new UN data showing that rich nations will be able to increase their carbon emissions by up to eight per cent if they take advantage of a series of major loopholes in their pledges.

Instead of reducing emissions by a minimum of 30-40 per cent by 2020 and holding temperatures to a rise of 2C – as many campaigners hoped the Copenhagen climate summit in December would achieve – many rich countries would not need to make any domestic cuts to stay within the legal limits of a new global climate deal being negotiated at resumed UN talks in Bonn this week.

The figures, which are far higher than expected, could be achieved by a series of carbon accountancy tricks and devices including:

• Selling "hot air" or surplus carbon allowances that were created when Soviet economies collapsed in the late 1980s;

• Using carbon markets to "offset" as much as 30 per cent of rich countries' emission cuts;

• Setting new rules to calculate emission gains and losses from logging and planting trees.

The new analysis, prepared by Bolivia and released by the UN yesterday, converts developed countries' existing pledges into reduction targets as used in the Kyoto protocol. When combined with calculations of loopholes and carbon market mechanisms, it shows a massive gap between the 30-40 per cent cut that scientists have said is needed to stem catastrophic climate change and the cuts which have been pledged by rich countries so far.

The calculations show that if they do not use the loopholes, developed countries would reduce emissions by 10-14 per cent below 1990 levels by 2017. But if the Bonn proposals are adopted, they could increase emissions by between four and eight per cent above 1990 levels.


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