Brazil and US commit to sourcing a fifth of their power from renewables, as China, Iceland, South Korea and Serbia all submit climate action plans
The hopes of an ambitious new climate change treaty being agreed at this December's Paris Summit received a major boost, as the US and Brazil became the latest two economic superpowers to ink a wide-ranging climate pact.
The deal, which formed the centrepiece of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff's state visit to Washington, commits the two countries to working together to deliver 20 per cent of their power from renewables by 2030. In addition, Brazil committed to restoring up to 12 million hectares of rainforest, as part of its national effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The agreement came amid a flurry of announcements this week relating to the UN climate talks, with the EU and China agreeing a similar pact, China submitting its climate action plan or INDC to the UN featuring a commitment to slash carbon emissions per unit of GDP by up to 65 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, and South Korea, Iceland, and Serbia all submitting their own INDCs.
US President Barack Obama said the latest agreement with Brazil added to the momentum that was building ahead of the Paris Summit and provided further evidence that industrialised and emerging economies could work together to cut emissions.
"Following progress during my trips to China and India, this shows that the world's major economies can begin to transcend some of the old divides and work together to confront the common challenge that we face," he told reporters at a joint press conference with his Brazilian counterpart.
The new renewable energy targets would see the US treble renewables output over the next 15 years, while Brazil is expected to double output, not including power from its considerable hydropower sector.
Rouseff said the commitment would form part of a comprehensive plan for cutting emissions. "Climate change is one of the central challenges of the 21st century," she said. "And we have one important objective, which is, number one, to ensure that the energy mix in our two countries will have a substantial share of renewable sources of energy."
She added that the country also attached "a great deal of importance" to tackling deforestation and bringing forward a new "clear-cut reforestation-oriented policy".
Brian Deese, Obama's top energy adviser, told reporters the new pact represented "a big deal" for the US and the UN climate talks. "We believe that this is an ambitious target, but it's one that's actually achievable in a way that will actually create new, low-cost opportunities for the American economy," he said.
The deal was welcomed by green businesses and NGOs. "Brazil and the US moved the ball ahead with commitments to increase and diversify their supply of renewable energy," said Jennifer Morgan, global climate director of the climate programme at the World Resources Institute. "These actions will help both countries expand their economies with clean, sustainable energy. Brazil can build on today's announcement with an ambitious national climate proposal as part of the international agreement this year."
The announcement will add to the sense of momentum ahead of December's UN talks, coming as it did on the same day China submitted its long-awaited INDC. The new plan suggests the economic superpower will invest $6.6tr in low carbon infrastructure through to 2030 in a bid to ensure its greenhouse gas emissions peak ahead of the end of the next decade.
China's announcement overshadowed similar commitments from South Korea, which said it plans to cut emissions 37 per cent against a business-as-usual scenario by 2030; Iceland, which said it would match the EU's goal to cut emissions 40 per cent against 1990 levels by 2030; and Serbia, which said it would cut emissions 9.8 per cent against 1990 levels, a level which according to reports would still represent a 15 per cent rise on 2013 levels.
In related news, the UN-backed Green Climate Fund provided an update on its progress this week, confirming it has reviewed 120 requests for funding totalling $6bn from poorer nations planning climate-related projects.
Héla Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the new body, told a meeting in New York around $500m of the projects looked promising and the fund was hoping to confirm its first projects ahead of the Paris Summit.
She also reiterated long-standing calls for richer nations to deliver greater sums into the fund. Under previous UN climate agreements nations have agreed to mobilise up to $100bn a year of climate-related funding to help poorer nations decarbonise and adapt to climate impacts by 2020, but current levels of funding are running at a fraction of this level.
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