Canada, Germany, Mexico, US: countries start planning climate action towards 2050

According to article 4, paragraph 19, of the Paris Agreement, Parties are invited to voluntarily communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies. At COP22 in Marrakesh, Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United States of America have presented their respective plans. Moreover, a new initiative on 2050 pathways was launched in Marrakesh and many countries have pledged to submit their plans soon.

In many respects, the mid-century strategies of Canada and the US are very similar. Both aim for emissions reductions of 80 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. This basically reaffirms commitments made by the both nations within the G8 in 2009.

Furthermore, both documents refer to the importance of the commitment made under the Mission Innovation initiative at COP21 in Paris as innovation is key for implementation. Under this initiative, participating countries have pledged to double their research and development spending on clean energy until 2020.

Besides, the mid-century strategies of Canada and US are said to be no blueprints for action and not policy-prescriptive. Rather, they are supposed to describe key opportunities and challenges with illustrative pathways.

However, there are of course also some differences between the both documents. Canada aims to engage relevant stakeholders and especially the different provinces to finalize a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change. This shall represent an essential part for the achievement of Canada’s 2030 target of reducing GHG emissions to 30% percent below 2005 levels. In addition, Canada just announced the phase-out of coal power plants which accounts currently for 10 percent of Canada’s total GHG emissions. Beyond, a carbon price system will be introduced, starting from 10 dollars per ton CO2 in 2018 and rising to 50 dollars by 2022.

In contrast, the US plan recommends actions in three major categories: transition to a low-carbon energy system, sequestration and removal of carbon and reduction of non-CO2 emissions (e.g. methane). As 80 percent of US GHG emissions emanate from the energy system, energy efficiency measures, decarbonization of the electricity production and shifts to clean technologies in transportation, buildings and industry are emphasized. Additionally, a transition to efficient carbon pricing will be a key priority for future policymakers according to the strategy.

It is unclear whether the US plan will be maintained under the new administration of president-elect Donald Trump.

Mexico has presented its long term strategy together with the US and Canada. The plan is based on already existing laws and measures which determine Mexico’s targeted pathway over the next 10, 20 and 40 years. Thereby, Mexico aims to reduce its GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2050 below emissions in 2000.

Interestingly, the Mexican plan also includes a strategy for climate change adaptation. As the other documents, the mid-century strategy foresees an evaluation and update process in line with provisions agreed under the UNFCCC.

Germany’s Climate Action Plan is supposed to increase the target of 80 to 95 percent GHG emission reduction by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, which was agreed upon in 2010. The Plan is based on the guiding principle of extensive GHG neutrality in Germany by the middle of the century. It includes specific sector-based targets for every area of action (energy, buildings, transport, trade and industry, agriculture, and land use and forestry) in the run-up to 2030.

Despite a seemingly deadlocked situation within the government before the COP, the plan was finally presented in Marrakesh. At the heart of the plan is a commission “for growth, structural change and regional development” which is supposed to deal with the future of coal power and the impacts of affected regions. In addition, Germany’s tax system will be reviewed with a view to achieving climate targets, and the plan says that Germany will advocate strengthening the European Emission Trading Scheme. A review will be carried out already in 2018, allowing to adjust the targets.

Next to the presentation of the four long-term strategies, the 2050 pathways platform was launched in Marrakesh at COP22. The platform will support countries seeking to develop long-term decarbonisation strategies, including by sharing of resources, knowledge and experiences. The initiative includes also cities, sub-states and companies engaging in formulating long-term low-emission strategies.

According to the platform, 22 countries have started or are about to start a process of preparing a 2050 pathway. Already 15 cities, including New York City and Rio, 17 states, such as California and Piedmont, and 196 business companies, like IKEA, Unilever and Daimler, are committed to advance their own plans. With their Marrakesh Vision, also the countries of the Climate Vulnerable Forum plus five additional countries have promised to prepare mid-century strategies.


(Image: Renewable Energy. Source: Daniel Parks, flickr)