Can we cut by 40% our GHG emissions by 2020 ? 4


climate-changeWhen the IPCC published its various reports in 2007 it concluded that to avoid dramatic climate changes, cutting by as far as 40 percent greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions could be necessary.

This contrast heavily with the targets the United States and the European Union set as they are closer to 20 than to 40 percent. Nonetheless we will see that the latter goal is achievable.

Energy efficiency alone could bring large cuts as it would enable to decrease importantly the consumption of coal, by far the most emitting energy source.

The poorest nations now fully understand that climate change will affect  them the most and would thus increase even more their difficulties.

As TreeHugger noted:

At the 175-nation climate change talks taking place in Bonn, Germany a group of developing nations has urged that the greenhouse gas emission reductions proposed by wealthy nations should be increased to “at least 40 percent” below 1990 levels by 2020. These would be greater cuts than be proposed by most politicians in the wealthy world (though not below what some scientists say is required):

Reuters quotes a Norwegian official as saying that the strongest voice for the 40% reductions arises from small islands states (many of which could be uninhabitable because of rising sea levels), but that those reduction recommendations have broad support.

(…) The Obama administration has the stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (that’s a 17% cut from current levels), and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The EU has pledged to reduce emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, increasing that to 30% if other wealthy nations make similar pledges.

The UN Climate Panel said in a 2007 report that by 2020 cuts of between 25-40% would be required to avoid the worst effects of climate change. So, in short, the proposed cuts of the US and the EU both are insufficient.

(…) Though the developing world as a whole makes up a bit over half of global greenhouse gas emissions, with China now leading the way in aggregate emissions, on a per capita basis (especially when issues of diminishing poverty and increasing human well-being are concerned) the onus really is on those of us living in wealthy nations to take the lead: Diminish personal and aggregate greenhouse gas emissions and increase rates of green technology transfer into poorer nations so that in places where more consumption would make genuine improvements in people’s lives, it can be done in the least environmentally harmful way.

This occurs as the Rocky Mountain Institute published a report on how the United States could halve their emissions by 2020. To TreeHugger:

Based on rigorous analysis and modeling, Rocky Mountain Institute found the following 17 policy aims, if adopted, could reduce U.S. oil use and greenhouse gas emissions each by 50 percent in 10 years, while creating over three million jobs in the next four years, and rapidly generating economic benefit for the nation.

Among the policies that need to be implemented are Government incentives are strong enough to ignite retrofits for existing buildings ;  Federal feebate legislation is enacted in conjunction with scrap-and-trade programs (already exist in France) ; a required mileage of 50 MPG ; a smart grid and incentives programs for renewables.

Of course, all this will have a cost, but this would be cheap compared to the cost of global warming.

Nonetheless, I remain confident as a global green New Deal has begun and will surely increase in importance in the very next weeks.


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4 thoughts on “Can we cut by 40% our GHG emissions by 2020 ?

  • Kiashu

    Any one of us can cut our household emissions overnight with some simple changes which, far from costing money, overall save money.

    However, these changes require that certain infrastructure be available, like railways; usually in the West these are available, but not enough for everyone to use. So that anyone can halve emissions overnight, but not everyone.

    Every one of us can make those changes if there’s some more spending on infrastructure. This can just be diverted spending; instead of $55 million/km highways, we can have $13 million/km railways. So the net cost should be around zero, or a slight saving of money. The necessary infrastructure could be built within a decade.

    Since household emissions are around half of all emissions, this halving leads to an overall 25% reduction within a decade. This leaves 15% reduction to be found by 2020.

    Agriculture, commerce and industry would then have to do their part. For the other 50% of emissions, they’d have to find 15/50 = 30% reduction by 2020. Could they manage it?

    Well, we see that unoccupied offices are lit up all night. Switching them off will save a lot of energy. And if you look around, you find tales of factories halving emissions in some area, for example, or another, and so on. So I think it quite doable. We should at least try.

    I don’t think it requires vast spending and wonderful new technology. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Here in the West we’re quite keen on the “recycle” part, because all we have to do is put the stuff in a bin and someone else takes it away and deals with it. We need more focus on “reuse”, and more still on “reduce”.

    It’s not really very complicated. In my household we’ve reduced our energy and water use by 75%, and I’m no technical genius, I’m just a cook.

    We just need to get our shit together. At the moment we’re very messy and wasteful.

  • Edouard Post author

    I agree heartily with you Kiashu.

    The sum of all the efforts we can do could easily account for 40 % reduction by 2020.

    Here we cut our energy consumption as well by choosing energy efficient solutions and so on.

    I am optimistic we will make it. It won’t be easy, but well, life ain’t easy, right ? 😛