How New U.S., Canada and Japan Climate Targets Reshuffle the Deck

World leaders gathered April 22 for the U.S.-organized Earth Day summit to discuss boosting their climate ambitions. Our latest report – How COP26 Climate Pledges Compare Post Earth Day – updates our analysis first published April 19 by including the new pledges announced by three G-20 countries – the U.S, Canada and Japan. Evaluating goals is tricky as countries employ various methods for making pledges. We seek to unravel the mystery by comparing the commitments in four ways.

Change in volumes of emissions

The U.S. now joins the U.K., EU and Brazil in having the most ambitious 2030 targets based on the change in volumes of emissions 2010-30. All four parties’ pledges would see them doing their part to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – one of the goals of the Paris Agreement. In contrast, developing countries – notably Turkey, India and China – could meet their 2030 targets while increasing their emissions substantially.

Emissions per unit of GDP

Emerging economies often peg their targets to emissions per unit of GDP (‘emission intensity’). This goal type can promote decarbonization, while allowing for economic growth. On this basis, the U.K., U.S. and EU still take the top three spots. China and India move up the ranking but their targets are not aggressive enough to ensure a global temperature increase of less than 2 degrees.

Emissions per capita

Governments tend to set emissions per capita goals if they expect significant population growth. On a per-capita basis, all but six of the G-20 countries’ pledges would result in lower emissions. But only the U.K.’s total is below our estimate for the level required for a 1.5-degree target.

The fourth way involves measuring the gap between emissions if the target is met and what emissions would have been absent a target. Based on this, only the U.S. and EU-27 would be aligned with a 2-degree scenario as its target requires significant change. For seven G-20 nations, including Canada with its new pledge, emissions under their 2030 targets would be higher than they would be without a goal.

Aggregate country scores

In an effort to unify clashing methodologies, BNEF has created aggregate country scores. Depending on the level of ambition, each target earns between zero and five points for each metric. Based on this system, the EU-27, the U.K and now also the U.S. top the list. Japan has climbed from eighth to fifth position, while Canada remains sixth. The fact that Canada has not budged on the leader board reflects the modest ambition of its new target. China and India may could find themselves under pressure in coming days as their pledges can only be regarded as ambitious under the criteria they set for themselves.

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BloombergNEF (BNEF) is a strategic research provider covering global commodity markets and the disruptive technologies driving the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our expert coverage assesses pathways for the power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors to adapt to the energy transition. We help commodity trading, corporate strategy, finance and policy professionals navigate change and generate opportunities.
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