Expectations for a New Climate Agreement  

Henry D. Jacoby and Y.-H. Henry Chen

Professor Henry D. Jacoby - photo

Professor Henry D. Jacoby

In the fall of 2015, the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will gather for their 21st meeting (COP-21) in Paris to negotiate an emissions reduction agreement aimed at limiting global temperature rise to 2°C above the preindustrial level. Both the overall architecture and the potential details of the agreement are at this point largely unknown. In Joint Program Report 264, Joint Program researchers describe how they expect the negotiations to proceed, and how the resulting changes in global emissions relate to the stated temperature goals.

3 Questions with Henry D. Jacoby 

What do you expect the agreement to look like?

In early 2015 countries are supposed to offer information about their “nationally determined contributions,” or what they’ll pledge to do to reduce emissions. This will be followed by a review period before the final negotiations in the fall. In the paper we give our judgment as to the likely form of agreement and what we think countries will be willing to pledge, with a focus on the electric power sector, transportation, household efficiency, land use, and methane reduction. We also discuss how contributions may vary from region to region. Now, the information that’s available at this point in time is very limited. So our estimates are based on clues found in national communications, on conversations with participants the process, and of course a good deal of guesswork.

Why make these estimates if the existing information is so limited?

At this point, nobody knows what the agreement is going to look like. Not only have very few countries said anything publicly, but we suspect that many don’t know yet what their nationally determined contribution is going to look like because it’s still in discussion domestically. We’re trying to stimulate a timely and open discussion of what might be possible, both within the policy community and among organizations that have an interest in where this is going. We hope in this way to contribute to a better outcome for our future climate.

Is the agreement going to be effective in limiting global temperature rise to 2°C?

We believe it will prove to be a step in the right direction. However, our expectation is that the pledges will not put the world on the path to meet the existing goals for limiting temperature change. We see emissions increasing through 2030 and, without additional international agreement, continuing to increase in the following decades. That raises the question, if it’s obvious in the early stages of the negotiation that we’re not getting on a path to temperature goals, what will be the nature of the follow-up process? We should be starting to have that discussion as well.

To read the full report, click here.