In 2010 the world emitted 48 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases. So we decided to start our countdown to the last COP21 plenary 48 days beforehand. Every day until the last day of the Paris climate negotiations in December 2015, we will share an interesting fact from our own number crunching dungeons, and from those of others. The 48 facts touch on key negotiation items at COP21. Please share! Look out for #Facts4COP21 announced daily via our twitter account @ClimateCollege.

PS: After the tragedy of human suffering inflicted by other humans, we have changed our hashtag from #Facts4Paris to #Facts4COP21. The attacks in Paris on 13th November 2015 warrant different kinds of "facts" to be disseminated. Facts about a tolerant society, about a free society, about the differences between ISIL and Islam and about the root causes of terrorism. We do not have those facts. We hope that our facts can however be useful for another struggle of humanity: long-term climate change.

Facts4COP21: Global LULUCF emissions now zero and promise to stay that way.


Time for some motivating news...

Globally aggregated land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions and removals have come down substantially over the last years.

In 2010, LULUCF emissions were around zero. Although it should be noted that this might be a little deceptive because countries account for the removal of CO2 in forest management systems and elsewhere, whereas carbon cycle models classify this as natural CO2 uptake.

Facts4COP21: Inflated baselines make some INDCs seem more ambitious

Indonesia and Turkey use exaggerated baselines

For developing countries, INDC targets are often expressed as reductions with respect to projected business-as-usual (BAU) emissions. That is, these countries intend to reduce their emissions compared to what would have happened under a scenario of 'no climate policy'.

In these circumstances, the chosen BAU projection is highly relevant. In some INDCs, the BAU is explicitly stated, in others it is merely implied.

Facts4COP21: Russia and Turkey producing most of the 'hot air' in climate talks

Russia and Turkey have the most Hot Air

Where a country announces an emissions target that sounds like a reduction but actually results in more emissions than under a business-as-usual situation, the emissions are known as 'hot air'.

For all countries, we compared business-as-usual projections of emissions with announced 2030 INDC targets. In every case, where the target was a range (either by design or because of inherent uncertainty) we chose the more ambitious end of the range.

Facts4COP21: The current 'optimistic' case shows a G20 emissions 'plateau'

Current best-case scenario does not see emissions rising

As we start COP21 negotiations in Paris today, we wanted to provide a good news story.

Taking all G20 INDC targets, we calculated an emissions trajectory to 2030 for G20 countries. 

In most cases an INDC does not provide a straight-forward target, but a range. This is either by design (such as for Australia where the announced target is 26% to 28% below 2005 levels) or because of unavoidable uncertainties in the calculations.

Facts4Paris: Australia could meet its Kyoto pledge while increasing emissions 11% by 2020 relative to 2000.


The near-term Australian target is a reduction of 5% on 2000 levels by 2020...or so most Australians believe.

In reality the target was established in three parts: an unconditional 5% target; increased to a 15% target if there is a commitment from major developing economies to substantially reduce emissions and for advanced economies to take on comparable commitments; increased to a 25% target if the global agreement can stabilise emissions levels at 450 parts per million or less.

Facts4Paris: Until 1995, the G7 were the major cumulative emissions contributor but not after; and sometime in 2020-30 non-Annex I nations become the major cumulative contributors.

Cumulative Emission Shares

The industrialised countries were responsible for the majority of emissions during much of the 20th century, despite having only a small fraction of the world's population. In fact, up to 1995, more than half of all global cumulative emissions were produced by the G7 countries. 

After 1995, the majority of emissions has been caused by non-G7 countries (see the crossover point on the graph above).

Facts4Paris: EU INDC does not meet 'fair share' nor 'leadership' criteria.

eu leadership

The EU has long been regarded a leader in international climate policy. However, with some internal voices putting up barriers (Poland, for example), this may be a thing of the past.

The EU 20% target by 2020 has basically been achieved. This is great in terms of past achievements! However, future ambitions are not so progressive.

We compared the EU's 2030 target of 40% below 1990 emission levels against various criteria (in line with our assumptions for a 2°C target):

Facts4Paris: World emission shares are roughly: one quarter: G7, one quarter: China, one quarter: rest of the G20, one quarter: rest of the world.

Quarter Emissions

Although all countries have to varying degrees contributed to the causes of climate change and all countries are impacted by climate change, some countries can have more of a role in emissions reduction than others. This relates very simply to countries' absolute share of global emissions. 

While we strive for a global deal in Paris this year, it is worth recognising that a regime focussing on certain countries or certain groupings of countries might also provide a path forward. 

Facts4Paris: The later we start reducing, the steeper the decline to 2050.

Cancun, INDCs and 2C scenarios

Our middle-of-the-range sum of INDCs gives an approximate figure of 55 Gt of emissions by 2030 (GWP AR4 metric). This is above 2020 emission projections for both the Copenhagen and Cancun pledges. It suggests that we are heading in the wrong direction. Global emissions need to come down, not increase further, if the world is to have a likely change of keeping warming within 2°C.

Facts4Paris: There are 16 INDCs for the top 20 emitters—those missing are: international shipping, Iran, Saudi Arabia and international aviation.


We ranked all 195 Parties to the UNFCCC according to their greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 including the two main sectors that were left out of the Kyoto Protocol: international shipping and international aviation. Both of these are big emitters with rapidly growing emissions and are two of the four INDCs missing from the top 20 emitters.

In order of total emissions:

Facts4Paris: if every country matches the US pledge, in 2025 world emissions will be 6% higher than they were in 2010.

The world following the USA 2025 pledge

If countries were to choose targets comparable with those of the US (where comparabability is determined either according to a 'common but differentiated per-capita convergence' scheme or to an 'equal cumulative per-capita' approach) world emissions would be 6% higher in 2025 than they were in 2010. For a least-cost 2°C trajectory, world emissions need to be 15% below 2010 emissions, or 10% above 1990 levels by 2025.

Facts4Paris: There is no way around zero emissions.

Regardless of the temperature at which we want to stop global warming there is no way around zero carbon emissions. As the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report showed (and as the G7 Agreement picked up) by 2050 carbon emissions from the electricity sector have to be zero.

Facts4Paris: Australia's per-capita emissions remain the highest among its key trading partners

World Per-capita Emissions

We quantified fossil and industrial greenhouse gas emissions for major emitters under their INDCs using the UN 2015 revised population projections (medium scenario) to calculate per-capita emissions to 2025 and 2030. Australia remains the highest per-capita emitter in the selection of countries shown above. Chinese per-capita emissions are about the same as those of the EU28 and continue to grow under their "peaking by 2030" pledge.

Facts4Paris: 79% of post-2011 carbon budget all used up by 2030.

#Facts4Paris carbon budget

For a likely (66%) chance of staying below 2°C of warming, we can only afford another 1000 GtCO2 cumulative carbon emissions after 2011. If INDCs are not augmented, we will have exhausted about 580 GtCO2 of those 1000 GtCO2 by 2025 and 790 GtCO2 by 2030. For a 1.5C carbon buget of 550 GtCO2, the current INDCs will exhaust that by 2025.