Reducing greenhouse gases under the UN FCCC

Jan Corfee Morlot, Robert Hornung (OECD), Laurie Michaelis (IEA)

2 rue André Pascal, 75775 Paris, France


The paper considers the progress being made by industrialised countries to implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) through action to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Based on a review of preliminary information available from four OECD countries (Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States), the paper compares national strategies and progress toward meeting domestic targets. It concludes that industrialised countries are just beginning to work toward meeting domestic targets and the mitigation "aim" identified in the Convention: returning emissions of GHG to 1990 levels by the year 2000. More work will be required if industrialised countries are to meet this commitment.

1 Introduction

On 21 March 1994 the UN FCCC entered into force. The ultimate objective of the Convention is:

... to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. (Art 2 ) (1)

National action under the FCCC is encouraged by the "commitments" that countries have made to reduce GHG emissions, to enhance GHG removals and to facilitate adaptation to climate change. In particular, all countries listed in Annex I of the FCCC have agreed to adopt policies and measures that aim to return anthropogenic GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Annex I countries include the 24 countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as well as twelve Central and Eastern European countries with "economies in transition".

While this commitment provides direction, the "aim" is non-binding. Fortunately, the FCCC also contains binding commitments that require Parties to report on their activities to implement the Convention through "national communications". A strong reporting and review procedure should enhance the FCCC's ability to encourage domestic mitigation action.

1.1 Aim and approach of the paper

This paper explores the following questions: Does the FCCC encourage national mitigation action? What national action has been taken to implement the Convention? Are countries meeting domestic targets and/or the GHG mitigation "aim" that has been laid out in the Convention?

Although not yet required to do so, a number of countries have already made available preliminary information on their activities. This paper draws on the information already provided by four OECD countries (Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States) to obtain some insight into the progress made to date by industrialized countries to implement the emission mitigation commitment of the FCCC. (2,3,4,5)

The paper proceeds as follows. First, it describes the national communications mechanism and indicates what information is required in national communications from Annex I Parties. Second, the paper compares the main features of the national strategies of four different countries. These national strategies are compared along several different axes: 1) characteristics of their national targets, 2) their choice and targeting of policies (e.g., sectoral emphasis and use of different policy instruments), and 3) their own expectations about the GHG reductions they expect to achieve by the year 2000. Finally, the paper draws some conclusions about the progress that has been made to date by the four countries considered here as well as on the progress likely to be made by Annex I Parties as a whole.

2 The national communications mechanism

Industrialised countries are taking their commitments to provide information through national communications quite seriously. Indeed, Annex I countries recently worked together with the secretariats of the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA) to draft and propose a set of guidelines for the content and format of their first national communications. These recommendations were discussed, slightly revised and formally adopted by all countries participating in the Convention negotiations in February 1994. First communications are due from 19 Annex I Parties (those among the first 50 countries to ratify the FCCC) on 21 September 1994. The Convention, supplemented by the new guidelines, now require Annex I Parties to provide the following information in their national communications (6):

1) Inventory reports: These reports will provide data for CO2 (emissions and removals reported separately), CH4, and N2O for 1990 following the draft reporting Guidelines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The reports should include all major assumptions and a description of the methodology used that highlights differences with respect to the IPCC default methodology.

2) Detailed description of policies, programmes and measures: For each measure, national communications should include the status of implementation of the measure, the policy instrument used, the sector(s) and gas(es) targeted, a description of how the measure is expected to work, and indicators or other approaches that will be used to monitor progress.

3) Projections of GHG in the year 2000 and estimates of the effects of policies, programmes and measures: National communications should include individual projections (incorporating policies) of emissions of each of the three major direct GHG for the year 2000, as well as gas by gas estimates of the overall effects of the package of policies and measures described in the communication on emissions in the year 2000 (i.e. the difference between a "with policy" projection and a "without policy projection".)

Annex I countries should be commended for this effort to make national communications complete, transparent and comparable. The guidelines will strengthen the FCCC reporting commitments and assist the review of national communications, and all countries should be encouraged to use the guidelines to structure the information that they will be providing in September 1994.

While one should not confuse reporting with action to mitigate emissions, the public availability of national communications and the fact that they will undergo some form of review should strengthen the FCCC's mitigation "aim". Moral persuasion is an important force in international relations and few countries will be interested in seeing their reputation diminished by release of a poor communication.

3 National strategies: four countries compared

The four preliminary "national communications" being reviewed in this paper were all completed before the guidelines were agreed to in February 1994. As a result, these preliminary documents are difficult to compare for several reasons. Inventories are presented in different formats and with different amounts of detail rendering them more or less transparent. The detail of information provided for each individual policy also varies. Some communications use a page to describe each policy, while others use a sentence or two. In addition, some communications only discuss measures already implemented while others discuss measures implemented along with measures under consideration. These issues, and others, are specifically addressed in the guidelines agreed to in February.

The preliminary national communications, however, are also difficult to compare because they present GHG mitigation strategies that seek to accomplish different goals. In addition to the non-binding FCCC emission mitigation commitment discussed earlier, nearly all OECD countries have established their own domestic targets to limit GHG emissions. These targets differ widely across countries.

3.1 National targets compared to FCCC goal of stabilisation

Canada, Germany, the UK and the US have each established a different type of national emissions reduction target to guide their national actions. (Table 1) The targets are differentiated by: (a) gases covered, (b) use of GWPs to aggregate emissions, (c) use of `net' emissions, and (d) base years and target dates. Different targets for national strategies make comparing those strategies somewhat more difficult. For the purpose of this comparison, one particular definition of the stabilisation `aim' of the FCCC is used to begin to measure national progress.

Table 1.National targets.

Country    Target                                                        

Canada     Stabilization of net emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse    
           gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol (aggregated     
           using GWPs) at the 1990 level by the year 2000, with further  
           progress in the reduction of emissions by 2005.               

Germany    Reduce energy-related CO2 emissions by 25-30% from the 1987   
           emission level by the year 2005.                              

United     Return emissions of CO2 and every other major greenhouse gas  
Kingdom    to 1990 levels by the year 2000.                              

United     Return net emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs and PFCs          
States     (aggregated using GWPs) to the 1990 level by the year 2000.   

Prior to outlining the definition of the "aim", it is necessary to consider the options. First, regarding coverage of GHG, the Convention clearly refers to all GHG not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. Countries with domestic CO2 targets only address part of the FCCC aim. Second, it is not clear whether the FCCC aim refers to each gas individually, or the effects of all gases as aggregated by GWPs. In theory, both targets will have the same benefit to the atmosphere. In terms of stringency, a target that aggregates gases using GWPs will likely require less CO2 reduction. This is because emissions of other significant greenhouse gases (CH4 and N2O) are expected to fall in many OECD countries over the next decade even if no new policies are implemented to address these emissions. Finally, it is not clear whether the FCCC aim refers to "net" emissions or not. This concept can make emission targets easier or more difficult, depending on whether or not carbon sinks within national boundaries are growing or declining.

For the purpose of comparison, this paper adopts a relatively strict interpretation of the FCCC mitigation "aim": (a) countries should stabilise CO2, CH4, and N2O at a minimum, (b) these gases are to be addressed individually rather than through the use of GWPs, and (c) countries are not allowed to consider sinks and emissions together (i.e. no "net" emissions). This definition is consistent with the Guidelines for national communications. Using this definition, the paper proceeds to consider whether countries are likely to achieve their own domestic targets, as well as whether they will achieve this relatively strict interpretation of the mitigation aim of the FCCC.

Before moving on to this analysis, it may be instructive to consider underlying reasons and implications of differences in national targets. These differences demonstrate the lack of consensus as to what the FCCC "aim" really stands for. This will not only complicate monitoring performance under the Convention but also indicate that future negotiations to define a common binding mitigation commitment within the FCCC will be a complex and arduous task.

3.2 Some observations about policy selection

To facilitate an analysis of national strategies, the authors have categorized key measures described in the preliminary national communications of Canada, Germany, the UK and the US by the targeted sector (power generation, industry, transportation, residential/commercial, fuel production, waste, agriculture and land use change) and by type of instrument (voluntary actions, economic instruments, regulation, education and training, and research and development) (Tables 2-5). The tables only include measures undertaken by the national government, even though some communications also describe measures undertaken by the private sector and other levels of government. Some background and observations on the national choice of policy measures, for each country and in general, is provided below.


Canada's National Report on Climate Change (Canada, 1994) describes a wide range of measures, implemented since 1990, that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Canada intends this list to be illustrative rather than comprehensive. Many of the actions described have been taken by Provincial Governments or the private sector. Table 2 lists policies implemented by the Federal Government, all of which but one address CO2 emissions from energy (both supply and use). These measures focus primarily on reducing energy use in the residential and commercial sectors through standards, education, and research, development and demonstration. The transport sector is acknowledged as an important area of growing greenhouse gas emissions, but the main policies in this area relate to the development of alternative fuels, which is unlikely to result in much emission reduction before 2000.

Although Canada intends to take all greenhouse gases into account in meeting its FCCC commitments, it does not yet have measures in place to reduce emissions of methane and other gases. Such measures are likely to be important to address emissions from coal, oil and primary materials production. These activities play an important role in Canada's economy and the government might face strong opposition to measures that would be costly for these industries.

Canada's national climate change mitigation strategy is still at an early stage of development. Additional measures are, however, now being developed by the federal government in consultation with provinces and other stakeholder.


Germany's Federal Environment Ministry has produced a report on Climate Protection in Germany "in anticipation" of the FCCC (Germany, 1993). The German report describes a number of measures to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use, waste management and land use. These measures are at varying stages of implementation: some were already adopted or implemented in 1990, while others will only be introduced as a result of agreements between European Union Member States; some, such as the carbon/energy tax, are unlikely to be introduced in the near future.

Table 2.Canada (Federal Government).

Type of           Economic        Regulations and   Information/Educati Voluntary     Research and            
Instrument        Instruments/Inc Guidelines        on/                 Agreements/   Development             
                  entives                           Training            Actions                               


Power                                                                   Partnership   District                
Generation/                                                             in Int. Res.  Heating/Cooling         
DH/CHP                                                                  Plan.                                 

Industrial                                          Energy              Energy        Industrial Targeted     
Combustion/                                         Management/Training Innovators    R+D                     
Prod.                                                                   Ventures                              

Transportation    Natural Gas                       Pro-Trucker/Fisher                Ethanol Production      
                  Incentives                                                          Other Alternatives      
                  Ethanol Tax                                                         Fuels                   

Residential/Comme                 Energy            Energuide           R-2000 Homes  S-2000 Solar Water      
rcial                             Efficiency        Labelling                         Heating                 
                                  Building          Building                          Advanced House          
                                   Code             Information                       Programme               
                                  Appliance/Equipme Transfer                          Buildings R+D/Tech      
                                  nt                Federal Buildings                  Transfer               
                                   Standards        Initiative                        Building Energy         
                                                                                      C-2000 Programme        

Fuel Production                                                                                               


Agriculture/Land  Tree Plan                                                                                   
Use Change        Canada                                                                                      

Table 3.Germany.

Type of           Economic              Regulations and      Information/Educati Voluntary    Research and     
Instrument        Instruments/Incentive Guidelines           on/Training         Agreements/A Development      
                  s                                                              ction                         


Power             Sale of Electricity   Small Installations                                   Wind Energy      
Generation/DH/CHP to the Grid           Ordinance                                             Promotion        
                  Support for District  Energy Management                                     Photovoltaic     
                  Heating               Act                                                   Promotion        
                  Tax Benefits for      Unification                                           Other            
                  Cogeneration          Treaty/Clean-Up                                       Renewable/Nuclea 

Industrial        Table of Charges for  Heating Systems      Energy Diagnosis                                  
Combustion/Prod.  Electricity           Ordinance            Programme                                         
                  Renewables            Heat Use Ordinance   Consultation and                                  
                  Grants/Tax Breaks     Packaging Ordinance  Advice                                            
                  Fee                   Waste from Human                                                       
                  Table-Architects/Engi Settlements                                                            
                  neers                 Waste                                                                  
                  Credit/Loans for      Mgmt/Recycling Act                                                     
                  CO2/Energy Tax                                                                               

Transportation    Motor Vehicle Tax     CO2 Limitation       Information/Awarene                               
                  Levy on Traffic                            ss                                                
                  Mineral Oil Tax                             Campaign                                         
                  CO2/Energy Tax                                                                               

Residential/Comme Table of Charges for  Thermal Insulation   Appliance/Equipment                               
rcial             Electricity           Ordinance             Labelling                                        
                  Renewables            Heating Systems      Energy Diagnosis                                  
                  Grants/Tax Breaks     Ordinance            Programme                                         
                  Fee                   Heat Use Ordinance   Consultation and                                  
                  Table-Architects/Engi                      Advice                                            
                  CO2/Energy Tax                                                                               
                  Credit/Loans for                                                                             

Fuel Production                                                                                                

Waste                                   Waste from Human                                                       

Agriculture/Land  Support for           Application of                                                         
Use Change        Afforestation         Fertilizers                                                            
                  and Pesticides                                                                               

Table 4.United Kingdom.

Type of Instrument  Economic             Regulations and     Information/Educati Voluntary     Research and    
                    Instruments/Incentiv Guidelines          on/Training         Agreements/Ac Development     
                    es                                                           tion                          


Power                                    Non-Fossil Fuel     Promote Combined                  Renewable       
Generation/DH/CHP                        Obligation          Heat/Power                        Energy          

Industrial          Energy Savings       Equipment           Best Practice       Making a                      
Combustion/Prod.    Trust                Standards           Programme           Corporate                     
                                         Building Standards  Energy Efficiency    Commitment                   
                                         Adipic Acid         Offices                                           
                                         Production          Energy Management                                 
                                                             Energy Design                                     

Transportation      Increasing Fuel      Speed Limit         Fuel Economy                                      
                    Duties               Enforcement         Information                                       
                    Electronic Tolling                                                                         
                    - Motorways                                                                                

Residential/Commerc VAT on Domestic      Appliance           Helping Earth       Making a      Green House     
ial                 Energy Use           Standards           Begins at Home      Corporate      Demonstration  
                    Energy Savings       Building Standards  Energy Advice        Commitment                   
                    Trust                Equipment           Centres                                           
                    Low Income Grant     Standards           Home/Appliance                                    
                    Programmes                               Labelling                                         
                                                             Energy Design                                     
                                                             Best Practice                                     
                                                             Energy Efficiency                                 
                                                             Energy Management                                 

Fuel Combustion                                                                  Gas Main      Coal Mine       
                                                                                  Replacement  Methane         
                                                                                               Oil and Gas     

Waste               Grants - Recycling   Production of                                         Landfill Gas    
                    Technologies         Recycling Plans                                                       
                    Supplementary        Strengthen                                                            
                    Credit Approvals     Landfill Standards                                                    
                                         Waste Management                                                      
                                         Ban Sewage Sea                                                        
                                         Planning Policy                                                       
                                         Guidance Notes                                                        

Agriculture/Land    Incentive            Setting Aside                                         Livestock       
Use Change          Schemes/Afforestatio Arable Land                                           Emissions       
                    n                    Ban Straw Burning                                     Fertilizer Use  

Table 5.United States.

Type of           Economic             Regulations and       Information/Educati Voluntary       Research and  
Instrument        Instruments/Incentiv Guidelines            on/Training         Agreements/Acti Development   
                  es                                                             on                            


Power             Transmission         Federal Regulatory                        Energy Star     Efficient     
Generation/DH/CHP Pricing Reform       Reform/Gas                                Transformers    Gas           
                                       Promoting Int. Res.                                                     
                                       Plan.                                                     Demonstration 
                                       Improve Existing                                          s             
                                       Hydroelectricity                                          Renewables    
                                       Electric Transformer                                                    
                                       Standards                                                 Demonstration 

Industrial        Golden Carrot                              One-Stop-Shops      Motor           Paper         
Combustion/Prod.  Programmes                                 Energy and          Challenge       Recycling     
                  Federal Partnership                        Diagnostic Centres  Climate          Technology   
                  Programmes                                 Federal             Challenge                     
                  NICE Grants                                Partnership          Programme                    
                  Programme                                  Programmes          Climate-Wise                  

Transportation    Reform Parking Tax   Clean Air Act         Efficiency                                        
                  Subsidy              Promoting             Strategies                                        
                                       Telecommuting         (Outreach)                                        
                                                             Tire Labelling                                    

Residential/Comme Golden Carrot        Appliance Standards   Home Energy Rating  Cool            Cost-Shares   
rcial             Programmes           Building Standards    Systems             Communities                   
                  Energy-Efficient                           Housing Technology  Energy Star     Demonstration 
                  Mortgages                                  Centres             Buildings       s             
                  State Revolving                            Information/Trainin Green Lights                  
                  Fund                                       g Programs          Programme                     
                                                             Rebuild America                                   

Fuel Production                                              Coalbed Methane     Natural Gas     Coal Mine     
                                                             Outreach            Star            Methane       
                                                                                  Programme       Recovery     

Waste                                  Strengthen Landfill   Landfill Outreach                   Landfill      
                                       Rules                 Program                             Methane       

Agriculture                                                                      AgStar          Improve       
                                                                                 Programme       Ruminant      


Forestry and      Cost-Shared Tree                           Non-Industrial      Cool            Paper         
Land Use Change   Planting                                   Private Forests     Communities     Recycling     
                  Federal Partnership                        Federal                             Technology    
                  Programmes                                 Partnership                                       
                  NICE Grants                                Programmes                                        

The reunification of Germany means that Germany's GHG emissions are destined to be lower in 2000 than in 1990 as a result of reduced coal use in former Eastern Germany. Perhaps for this reason, the government has established an ambitious CO2 target which is aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 25-30% compared to 1987 by the year 2005. Germany also has a wide range of measures, several of which are directed at non-CO2 GHG emissions and non-energy emissions, with one measure directed at sink enhancement. There is a strong mix of fiscal, regulatory and information measures. The main focus of these measures is to improve energy efficiency and encourage the use of renewable energy in homes, businesses and industry. Again, the transport sector is acknowledged to be an important and growing GHG source, but the main measures to reduce transport emissions are dependent on European Union agreements.

Germany's measures were selected by the government as the most promising from a list of recommendations by the Enquete Commission in late 1990 (Enquete Commission, 1992). The Government's 25-30% emission reduction aim has been described as the maximum potential of these measures, assuming successful implementation.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's Climate Change: The UK Programme (UK, 1994) describes a range of measures to reduce CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Many of these measures are being undertaken by industry or by local government. Several are already in place.

In contrast to many countries, the United Kingdom starts from a position where CO2 emissions in most sectors have fallen in recent years. A continued fall to 2000 is quite possible as a result of the rapid switching of power generation from coal to gas. Nevertheless emissions from the transport sector are likely to grow considerably during the 1990s.

One of the most important measures in the United Kingdom is the introduction of a value added tax on domestic fuels. This measure was originally introduced as part of the process of harmonisation of sales taxes in the European Union, but it will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the residential sector. A very high proportion ¾ about a third ¾ of the UK government measures listed in Table 4 are directed at emissions other than CO2 from energy. Several, such as the recovery of methane from coal mines, landfill and oil and gas production, nevertheless have a strong energy dimension.

United States

The United States' Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP: US, 1993) is intended to be the "cornerstone" of the US National Communication to the CoP, but is not intended to be the final Communication. It goes to some lengths to provide detailed information on individual measures, including their financial costs and benefits to the private and public sectors. For most measures the CCAP gives the estimated effect on emissions in 2000.

As the CCAP was produced following the rejection by the US Congress of the Clinton Administration's proposed Btu tax, the federal government went to some lengths to ensure that measures in the CCAP would not be controversial and would not face opposition in the process of enforcement. Accordingly, most of the policies seeking to reduce emissions in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors rely on voluntary agreements, information dissemination and research, development and demonstration. Some of these measures are very imaginative. The transport sector is again recognized as a problem area with growing emissions and few readily available options for reducing them, although additional policies are now being examined for this sector.

The CCAP also includes a large number of measures that aim to reduce emissions of non-CO2 GHG and enhance CO2 sinks. These measures make up a significant and important part of the US national strategy.

Some general observations

A striking characteristic of all four strategies is that the majority of measures are directed at reducing CO2 emissions from energy (supply and use). By comparison, the national strategies pay considerably less attention to other GHG, non-energy emissions, and removal by sinks. This reflects:

the importance of CO2 among GHG, as it contributes by far the largest share to anthropogenic GHG emissions;

the fact that most countries currently have only very approximate data on their emissions of non-CO2 GHG, and are in the early stages of exploring technologies and policies to reduce them; and

the fact that removal of GHG by sinks is poorly understood and the effects of measures such as afforestation are uncertain.

Within the energy sector, strategies concentrate on the residential/commercial sector, and on policies that will encourage the use of cost-effective energy efficient technology, especially for space and water heating. These measures are usually uncontroversial as they save money for those affected and have little effect on lifestyles.

There is less emphasis on the transport sector, which is one of the fastest growing energy end-use sectors. This reflects the difficulty many countries are currently facing in trying to improve car and truck fuel economy or encourage the use of other transport modes. Most measures to constrain transport energy use and GHG emissions would mean restricting vehicle choice or use. Promotion of some alternative fuels provides an exception to this but the market potential of these fuels before the year 2000 is small. Despite the limited number of measures taken to address transport, all countries recognize the sector as one of the most important areas for future action.

Table 6 confirms that each of the three countries that has provided information on the estimated effects of their measures expects to achieve the majority of their energy-related carbon dioxide emission reductions in the residential/commercial sector. As noted earlier, one of the reasons most countries are focusing their policy efforts in this sector is because there are significant opportunities for cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. Absolute emission reductions appear to be most difficult to obtain in the transportation sector in all three countries.

Table 6.Estimated contributions by sector to total CO2 emissions reduction: Canada, United Kingdom, United States (% of total).

                          Canada           United Kingdom      United      

Residential/Commercial    48               40 (residential     41          
Industrial                27                                   16          
                                           35 (including                   
Transportation            25               commercial)         13          

Power Generation,         Distributed      25                  17          
District Heating, CHP     across energy                                    
                          demand sectors   Distributed across              
                                           energy demand                   

The types of policies adopted also differ widely between countries, depending partly on resource endowment, the history of energy and environmental policy in the countries, the institutional structure of government and its relationship to the private sector. For example, North American strategies rely more heavily on voluntary agreements and research and development than their European counterparts. On the other hand, the use of taxation and other economic instruments for environmental ends is more common in European countries and plays a more prominent role in their strategies. These preferences for certain policy instruments over others reflect differences in the political cultures of each country considered here.

3.3 Overall estimates of GHG emission reductions resulting from national strategies

In the end, the most important question to be asked with respect to the strategies described in preliminary national communications is what are they expected to accomplish? As discussed earlier, Annex I Parties are required to report two pieces of information with respect to their expectations for future greenhouse gas emission and removal levels: a "with policy" projection of greenhouse gas emission and removal levels in the year 2000; and a specific estimate of the total effect on greenhouse gas emissions and removals in the year 2000 of the main policies and measures described in the communication. The Guidelines require these to be provided on a gas-by-gas basis (for CO2, CH4 and N2O) with emissions separate from removals.

The four countries examined here differ in the detail and the type of information presented in their preliminary documents, making comparison of their expected GHG reductions difficult. Germany has chosen not to provide any information on expected trends in GHG emissions. Canada only shares information concerning energy-related CO2 emissions. Alternatively, both the UK and the US provide somewhat more information than is required on emission trends for the three direct GHG, with both "with policy" and "reference" scenarios. On the question of protection or enhancement of CO2 sinks, the US has provided a projection while the UK has not.

Table 7 compares expected reductions in CO2 emissions from the energy sector in Canada, the UK and the US. The UK is the only country that believes its policies and measures might, if the assumptions underlying the reference scenario are correct, return energy-related CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Table 7.CO2 emissions outlooks: Canada, United Kingdom, United States. (Mt CO2)

               1990     2000 Emissions     2000      Effect of    % Change   
             Emissions  (w/o policies)   Emissions  policies on   1990/2000  
*                         (with       emiss.                

Canada          461          N/A            510        - 13.9      + 10.6    
United          580         616.6           580        - 36.6         0      
Kingdom        5,003      (reference       5,153       - 242        + 3.0    
United                    scenario)                                          
States **                   5,395                                            

* Emissions are presented as carbon dioxide emissions, even though the preliminary communications of the US and the UK report data in terms of carbon emissions. To convert carbon emissions into carbon dioxide emissions, one multiplies by 3.66.

** This Table presents carbon dioxide emissions. This means that the numbers for the United States are different from those presented in the US preliminary national communication because that document presents information on `net' emissions. Accordingly, the contribution sinks make to reducing US emissions is not considered here.

Both Canada and the United States project that CO2 emissions will continue to increase even with the implementation of the policies and measures described in their national communications. Accordingly, neither of these countries will meet this paper's strict interpretation of the FCCC's mitigation aim. These two countries do have GWP-based domestic targets, however, and they can therefore still meet their domestic targets if emissions of other gases are reduced enough to offset the projected increase in CO2 emissions.

The Canadian national communication does not provide comprehensive projections of CH4, N2O or any other greenhouse gases. This means it is unclear whether the government expects to meet its own emission reduction target. Given the 10% increase in CO2 emissions projected for the year 2000, it would be difficult for Canada to reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol enough to offset this projected increase.

Table 8 summarises projections and effects of policies implemented in the UK and the US with respect to CH4 and N2O. As compared with CO2, the situation is radically different. With the exception of CH4 growth in the UK, emissions of these gases are expected to fall between 1990 and 2000 without the implementation of any measures. Accordingly, policies in these sectors do not slow down emission growth, but instead accelerate a decline that is already expected to occur without any additional policy actions.

It should be noted that a GWP of 11 has been used to calculate carbon-dioxide equivalent methane emissions (or in some cases recalculate), as required by the Guidelines for national communications agreed to in February. While scientists recognize that the GWP of methane is greater than 11 (and may be as high as 22), there is no consensus on the exact value.

As illustrated in Table 8, the UK clearly foresees that it will easily meet its domestic commitment to return emissions of both methane and nitrous oxide to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Indeed, if the UK were to aggregate emissions of the three major greenhouse gases through the use of GWPs in a "with policies" projection, the United Kingdom's emissions of these three gases would be 28.2 Mt (4.2%) lower in 2000 than in 1990 in carbon dioxide equivalent terms. Since its domestic target corresponds to this paper's stringent interpretation of the FCCC mitigation aim, the UK expects to meet this target as well.

Table 8.CH4 and N2O projections: United Kingdom, United States (Mt CO2 equivalent).

                1990         2000         2000       Effect of    % Change  
              Emissions    Emissions    Emissions   policies on  2000/1990  
                             (w/o         (with       emiss.                
                           policies)    policies)                           

Methane *                                                                   
United                55 approx. 57.8         48.4         - 9.4       - 12 
Kingdom            303.8     274.5           245.2        - 29.3       - 19 

oxide               29.7  approx. 27           8.1        - 18.9       - 36 
United             142.7     131.8           113.5        - 18.3       - 21 

* A GWP value of 11 has been used to calculate methane emissions in carbon dioxide equivalent terms, as requested in the FCCC guidelines for national communications. This means that the methane numbers presented here differ from those included in the US preliminary national communication, where a GWP of 22 was used. It should also be noted that this table presents methane and nitrous oxide emissions in CO2 equivalent terms, while the US plan calculates these numbers in carbon equivalent terms.

For the United States, emissions of CH4 and N2O are expected to be 87.8 Mt lower in the year 2000 than in 1990 in carbon dioxide equivalent terms. This does not offset the 150 MT increase in carbon dioxide emissions envisioned in this period. The US has a "net" emission domestic target which is the reason they have added in the effects of their policies to enhance CO2 sinks. They estimate that these enhancements will remove 62.22 MT of CO2 from the atmosphere in the year 2000. When this is added in, "net" emissions of the three major greenhouse gases in the US, on a CO2 equivalent basis, return to 1990 levels in the year 2000.

PFCs and HFCs are also aggregated into the US domestic commitment, however, and emissions of these gases are expected to increase through the year 2000. In its preliminary national communication, the US has used a GWP value of 22 for methane. A higher GWP value makes actions to reduce methane emissions more important and the result is that these actions offset the projected increase in HFC and PFC emissions, allowing the US to meet its domestic target. When PFCs and HFCs are included and a GWP of 11 is used, the domestic target is not met.

In summary, two of the four countries examined here, the UK and the US, expect to meet their own GHG reduction targets by the year 2000. In the context of a strict interpretation of the FCCC commitment, only the UK expects to return emissions of each of the three major direct GHG to 1990 levels in the year 2000. The US falls short of this target because of a projected 3% increase in CO2 emissions, but plans to compensate for this shortfall by reducing other GHG (CH4, N2O) to below 1990 levels and enhancing CO2 removal by sinks. Canada hints that the measures contained in the current plan are unlikely to achieve its own target (comprehensive and net) let alone to arrive at gas-by-gas stabilisation by the year 2000. However, neither Canada nor Germany provide enough information about expected trends in GHG to fairly assess overall expectations.

4 Conclusions

A recent initiative taken by the group of Annex I countries resulted in the adoption of Guidelines for their first national communications as required by the FCCC. These Guidelines require substantial information that should enhance the ability of the Conference of the Parties to assess the likely outcomes of national strategies to reduce GHG. The Guidelines, if followed by countries, should also ensure transparency, comparability and complete national communications. Annex I countries should be commended for this effort to ensure rapid and effective implementation of their reporting commitments under the FCCC.

The Guidelines will also help to strengthen the relatively weak emission mitigation aim contained in the Convention by ensuring that countries will be held publicly accountable for the actions they take to meet this target.

With respect to domestic action, most OECD countries have taken a first step in the development of national strategies by setting a domestic target. These targets vary widely from country to country, both in their design and in their level of stringency. Indeed the four countries considered here - Canada, Germany, the UK and the US - have four different types of GHG target. These differences make comparing national strategies more difficult and ensure that countries will face a challenging task in the future when attempting to negotiate binding commitments for emissions reductions within the FCCC.

Few countries have actually developed detailed strategies and shared information on how they intend to mitigate GHG in their own country. The review of the strategies described by Canada, Germany, the UK and the US, shows a tendency to focus on CO2 emissions with a particular emphasis on energy use in the residential/commercial sector. Since countries aim first to exploit uncontroversial and highly cost-effective options, such as to increase the efficiency of energy use in the residential/commercial and industry sectors, it is not surprising that the transport sector receives relatively less attention. Moreover, it is clear that countries have preferences for different types of policy instruments to achieve these emission reductions. In North America, there is a greater emphasis on the use of voluntary action, education and research and development, while there is a greater reliance on economic instruments in the European countries examined here.

Most importantly, the paper considers national expectations regarding progress toward meeting national targets or the mitigation aim set out in the FCCC. The United Kingdom and the United States clearly state, and provide projections to support, their expectations to meet domestic targets. The UK is the only country that expects to meet a strict interpretation of the mitigation aim of the FCCC (individual stabilisation of CO2, CH4, and N2O, no "net" emissions, and no use of GWPs). The US expects to come close to meeting this target as well, missing stabilisation of CO2 emissions by only 3%.

Even if all Annex I countries performed as well as the United Kingdom and the United States, emission stabilisation is unlikely to be maintained beyond the year 2000 without additional policy action. This is due, in part, to the inability of countries to devise an approach to mitigation in the transport sector, the fastest growing energy end-use sector.

At the last climate convention negotiating session in February 1994, Dr. Bert Bolin, Chairman of the IPCC, stated that stabilisation of GHG at 1990 levels by the year 2000 by industrialised countries was not likely to be enough to achieve the objective of the Convention. In the same session, most negotiating countries agreed that the current commitments under the FCCC were inadequate. Based on the preliminary review summarised here, it appears that industrialised countries may find it difficult to achieve more stringent commitments. Countries have only just begun to work toward the initial and tentative goal of returning GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. They have yet to demonstrate that they can achieve this target.


The authors would like to thank Michel Potier who provided thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.


This paper presents the views of the authors alone and not the views of their respective organisations.


1. United Nations General Assembly (May 1992). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (A/AC.237/18 (Part II)/Add.1 and Corr.1.

2. Canada (February 1994). Canada's National Report on Climate Change. Ottawa.

3. German Federal Environment Ministry (August 1993). Climate Protection in Germany.

4. United Kingdom (January 1994). Climate Change - The UK Programme. London, HMSO.

5. United States (October 1993). The Climate Change Action Plan. Washington, DC.

6. United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (February 1994). First Review of Information Communicated by Each Party Included in Annex I to the Convention (A/AC.237/WG.I/L.16/Rev.1) Geneva.

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