Views and debates on climate change policy
Home | Panelists | Staff Blog | RSS

Jennifer L. Morgan

Jennifer L. Morgan

Jennifer L. Morgan is the director of the Climate and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute. ALL POSTS

A closer look at developing country climate pledges

Though reports out of Copenhagen are covering the supposed tensions between developed and developing countries over the "Danish Text," there is actually quite a bit of movement among developing countries about their role in being part of the solution. One of the things that inspired me the most leading up to Copenhagen was large developing countries voluntarily making pledges in the form of various emissions reductions. After all, developing countries have historically not been the main contributors to the problem of global warming and are struggling to lift their people out of poverty. Yet as Copenhagen approached, one by one developing countries came forward with commitments. This should be a wake-up call to the United States, because many of these countries are and will be our 21st century competitors.

Here are some of the commitments we've seen this year:

• Brazil pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 by 36 - 39 percent (compared to a baseline of "business as usual," or 2703 MTCO2e).
• India pledged to reduce its emissions per unit of economic output 20-25 percent by 2020 (compared to a baseline of 2005 levels).
• China pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP 40-45 percent by 2020 (compared to a baseline of 2005 levels).
• South Africa committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 34% by 2020 (compared to "business as usual").

South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and several other countries have also submitted reductions pledges.

These pledges raise the question: why are they acting? Countries are putting commitments on the table because they believe it is in their national interest -- not just because they are likely to be hit hardest by the impacts of climate change, but also because they understand that transitioning to a low-carbon economy is the only way they can ensure they are competitive in the future. Countries of all sizes are changing the way they operate. It is my sense that many of these countries would go even further if support was provided by developed countries. In some cases this support is financial, in others it is capacity and in others yet technology transfer. Each of these pledges has come forward without any significant support from the developed countries. Imagine what might be possible if by the end of next week that changes.

By Jennifer L. Morgan  |  December 10, 2009; 8:20 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: A finding based on inescapable evidence | Next: Momentum for Copenhagen


Please report offensive comments below.

Sure they are making "progress". Of course it's all the 3rd world countries who have to make no changes and will, in fact, be given staggering amounts of money from the countries who drive the world economy. Socialism does NOT work and it rarely ever has...and even then not for long. You sap innovation when you "give" people everything and never "teach them to fish".

Posted by: theduck6 | December 14, 2009 7:38 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Bad hair day Jennifer?

Posted by: oracle2world | December 13, 2009 10:39 PM
Report Offensive Comment

We are going the wrong way. Life was not meant to be this complicated and oppressive.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference process is

Reducing CO2 emissions cuts growth capacity of plants
necessary for SURVIVAL.

Signing a BINDING AGREEMENT under United Nations takes away FREEDOM.
Promising poor nations money to sign a binding agreement is bribery
to take their authority to govern their resources leading to conflicts and wars.
CAP and TRADE is a loophole for rich nations to avoid compliance and
it invites and creates bribery, corruption, bondage and servitude.
The employment lifestyle causes the world problems.
A garden paradise lifestyle would reverse and solve them easily, quickly,
fairly and inexpensively. It is the only sustainable lifestyle that reverses and solves the pollution of our air, land, water and food, energy crisis, disease, war, immigration, reoccurring financial crises, and social problems including youth and elderly care.

New technology, jobs and money are not the solution; they continue the same employment lifestyle that pollutes our air, land, water and food leading to disease and death.

The Employment Lifestyle Failed. The Garden Paradise Life Wins.
Let's Learn the Lesson Now.

Posted by: MarieDevine | December 13, 2009 9:25 PM
Report Offensive Comment


... mighty kind of these folks ...

According to the Aluminum hat group in Copenhagen -- Americans should pay for this "Pledge" ....

-- Religion > burning witches and Global Warmers

Posted by: highkey11 | December 13, 2009 3:37 PM
Report Offensive Comment


First, thank you for recognizing the uniqueness of the United States. It is because we are a mixing bowl of so many diverse cultures -- each with their own backgrounds and biases -- that we are as strong a country as we are.

Second, it is not that we are "easily distracted by the so-called leaked emails." It is because there have been serious questions brought up about the sincerity of the scientific community about man's influence over the climate. The e-mails simply amplified the fact that there is much more disagreement between climate researchers than previously admitted.

You mentioned a "lack of leadership of the United States on this issue. Are you aware that the United States passed the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, followed by the Clean Air Act of 1963, the Air Quality Act of 1967, the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970, and Clean Air Act Amendments in 1977 and 1990 (according to wikipedia)? Are there any other countries that can advertise interest in cleaning up the environment as far back as 1955? Are you aware that none of the countries that signed the Kyoto treaty were able to live up to their pledges? In this light, what good will be done by creating and signing a new treaty if it, too, is unrealistic?

I do want to participate in cleaning up the environment, and I think most US citizens agree with me. I don't think the US is the bad guy, though (no, we're not perfect, but we're not demons, either). I also don't think people realize the costs associated with the changes we're being asked to make.

For example, the US gets a lot of its electricity from coal-burning power plants. If we move to electric cars today, we have to generate the electricity somehow. Do you want more coal-burning plants, and how will this affect the atmosphere? Do we dam up more rivers for hydroelectricity, and how will this influence local ecosystems? Do we build more of those evil nuclear power plants? Do we invest in solar? I know it would cost me over $30K to put solar panels on my house. There are 129 million houses in the US; at $30K each house, that's $3.9 trillion. How are solar panels even made, and are there any environmental issues with their manufacture?

It's not a lack of interest or leadership on the part of the United States. It's a lack of straight answers from the scientific community, and the trade-offs between where we need to be and the costs to get there.

Posted by: c0lnag0 | December 13, 2009 1:48 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The United States is truly unique. While thee rest of the world talks about the urgency of climate change, here people are easily distracted by the so-called leaked emails.
It is shameful to look at the lack of leadership of the United States on this issue today and of course for the last eight years under Bush.
Attacking developing countries is simply cruel. Just think how many people are still not using electricity and flush toilets. Even compared with China, the average American CO2 emission is 4-5 times higher, is that reasonable? Please answer me with heart.
What's wrong with this country?

Posted by: RousseauC | December 13, 2009 10:59 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"China pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP 40-45 percent by 2020 (compared to a baseline of 2005 levels)."

Whoa, slow down. We've already read elsewhere that this does not mean China will reduce its overall CO2 emissions by 40 - 45 percent. The key phrase is "per unit of GDP." As China's GDP goes up, its CO2 emissions will go up with it, just at a slower pace. The bottom line is that China didn't promise anything with any real substance behind it.

Follow this link:

"China’s GDP is projected to grow around 400% by 2020. So even with a 40% intensity cut, emissions in the absolute sense would increase by 250%. That growth would make China the biggest national emitter by far, and [pose] a daunting challenge for reducing GHG emissions."

If you don't like those numbers, a more promising (but still disappointing) view is here:

"[Michael] Levi, using data from the Energy Information Administration, said that under this plan, China's overall emission levels would still grow 72 to 88 percent by 2020, about the same amount they would have increased anyway, given efficiencies expected as the country's economy becomes more advanced."

Any way you slice it, I don't think we're going to see carbon emissions in China go down at all; they'll just grow at a slower rate.

Posted by: c0lnag0 | December 13, 2009 1:31 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"These pledges raise the question: why are they acting?"

I won't make fun of Jennifer because she's cute, and in general I give cute girls a pass on whatever they say.

But let me help the reader here: 3rd world countries are buying into the whole "carbon offset" silliness because they assume there will be payments made from the U.S. to Brazil (and other 3rd worlds) in the form of carbon offsets.

Jenny, Merry Christmas, I like you!

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | December 12, 2009 4:35 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The pledges by developing countries could be nothing more than the warmist version of "just say anything." Anything, that is, that will get the Western and developed countries on record with their own cuts. With luck, the US and the EU will ruin themselves trying to meet unworkable standards and no one will be in a position to point out that the developing countries were playing us. "They must have been trying - see, they signed an agreement!"

Posted by: dmlpearl | December 12, 2009 8:53 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Don't be gullible. I know this is hard for a liberal to do. These countries are paying lip service to eco-socialists in order to appear to be playing nice. The climate change alarmists cannot show evidence that global warming is dangerous or that mankind is the largest contributor. Are you telling me that we cannot adapt to a rise in ocean levels over a 100 year period? The urgency is really based on the socialist realization that the window of opportunity to fool people is closing. Wake up! It is closed already.

Posted by: vanhook99 | December 11, 2009 9:39 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company