Climate action outside UNFCCC could be of same order as pledges by governments

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International climate initiatives operating outside the global climate negotiations could deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions of 2.5 Gt CO2-equivalents by 2020 and 5.5 Gt CO2eq by 2030, compared to a scenario without climate policy, a new study finds. This is roughly the same amount as national governments have pledged to reduce in the context of the UN-led Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

However, the researchers see a 70% overlap between these international initiatives - often led by businesses, cities and civil society - and national pledges, as many sectors are already included in the plans that governments put forward in the climate negotiations. Initiatives in international shipping and aviation and on greenhouse gases such as methane and HFC gases could bring about additional reductions, as these are not included in the national pledges. The study is published by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in the run-up to the Paris Climate Summit taking place early December this year.

Largest reductions expected from companies and cities

In addition to the international climate negotiations under the UNFCCC flag, there is a wide range of public and private initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These include coalitions of cities or companies, initiatives in specific sectors, and programmes focusing on specific greenhouse gases. The researchers have assessed the impact of thirteen of the largest initiatives. The largest reductions are expected from company initiatives such as the Top 500 companies in the Carbon Disclosure project, and city initiatives such as the C40 Cities initiative and Covenant of Mayors. Other initiatives with relatively large reductions are the New York Declaration of Forests and the HFC proposal to the Montreal Protocol. Apart from bringing about additional emission reductions on top of commitments already made by national governments, these initiatives can help to accelerate and increase the effectiveness of climate policy implementation.

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Global greenhouse gas emission level achieved by international cooperative initiatives compared to pledges, current national policies scenario and IMAGE baseline 

Pledges and initiatives fall short to reach the 2°C target

The combined effect of international initiatives and pledges, taking into account their overlap, would lead to emission levels between 54 and 57 Gt CO2-eq by 2030. These emission levels are still higher than those that are necessary to meet the 2°C climate target by the end of the century.

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