Breaking News from Copenhagen: National Emissions Reductions Proposals Currently Fall Short of the Targets Defined in the Draft Text from the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action

December 12, 2009 by Andrew P. Jones

Writing from the Bella Center in Copenhagen, our Climate Interactive team is sharing analysis of Day 5 Draft Texts in COP15.

With less than a week to go, significant differences remain between the aggregate emissions reductions from current national proposals and the mitigation targets released yesterday in a draft text at the UNFCCC climate talks in Copenhagen. This draft text from the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) includes greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that could limit global temperature increase by 2100 to 2.0°C (3.6°F) or less, relative to pre-industrial temperatures. However, current proposals from individual countries for their own actions would lead to temperature increase of approximately 3.8°C (6.8°F) in the same period.

Achieving the potential declared in the draft texts will require sufficient commitment to financing, technology transfer, monitoring, verification, and accountability to allow nations to commit to and achieve higher reduction targets than they have currently put on the table. This analysis does not seek to analyze the political viability of the draft text or make any judgment as to the sufficiency of any elements of the draft other than the emissions reduction targets specified.

The draft text has been analyzed by researchers from the US-based Climate Interactive group, consisting of Sustainability Institute, the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and Ventana Systems. In their analysis, the researchers performed quick-turnaround analyses with the C-ROADS model.

The draft text contains bracketed text, where final target values have not yet been agreed upon. The researchers therefore analyzed three scenarios based on the reduction targets suggested within the text. In one scenario they combined the smallest reduction targets, in a second scenario the combined the largest reduction targets, and a third scenario examined the impact of the mid-range targets.

All three of the scenarios derived from the AWG-LCA text result in temperature increase in 2100 in the range of 2.0°C (3.6°F) or lower.

The gap between the text scenarios and those of the national governments was identified following an analysis of the collective impact of the current proposals nations have made for their own emissions reductions. The researchers estimate that current confirmed proposals (that is submissions to the UNFCCC or official government positions) would result in an average increase in global mean temperature of 3.8°C  (6.8°F) by 2100, and that potential proposals, including conditional proposals, legislation under debate and unofficial government statements, would result in approximately a 2.9°C (5.2°F) temperature increase.

Dr. Elizabeth Sawin of Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vermont, USA, who co-led the analysis said: “It is encouraging that these draft texts propose targets for emissions reductions that could limit temperature increase to 2°C (3.6°F), but the emissions reductions proposed by individual countries will need to be significantly larger if the world is to achieve this potential.”

Analysis and Assumptions

****20202050Land UseModeling assumption
AWG-LCA Relevant draft text on mitigation targetsDeveloped countries: Relative to 1990 levels: by a range of 25 to 40%; by 30%; by 40%; or by 45%. Developing countries cut their carbon output by between 15 and 30 percent compared to a scenario in the absence of enhanced mitigation.Reduce global emissions by at least (50/85/95)% from 1990 levels and continue to decline thereafter. Developed countries should reduce their emissions by 75-80%, at least 80-85%, or more than 95% from 1990 levelsWe assume that reduction targets apply across land-use.
AWG-LCA  Smallest Reduction ScenarioDeveloped 25% below 1990 Developing 15% below reference scenarioGlobal 50% below 1990We assume that reduction targets apply across land-useWe assume: decline from -50% in 2050  to -60% in 2100
AWG-LCA  Medium Reduction ScenariosDeveloped 35 % below 1990 Developing 22.5% below reference scenarioGlobal 85% below 1990We assume that reduction targets apply across land-useWe assume: decline from -85% in 2050 to -95% in 2100
AWG –LCA Largest Reduction ScenarioDeveloped 45% below 1990 Developing 30% below reference scenarioGlobal 95% reduction from 1990 levelsWe assume that reduction targets apply across land-useWe assume decline from -95% in 2050 to  -99% in 2050
Current Proposals From CountriesSee under “Scoreboard Science and Data”


All scenarios begin in 2010

Notes For Editors:

The C-ROADS (Climate - Rapid Overview And Decision Support) climate policy simulator is a scientifically sound tool that enables users to rapidly evaluate the impact of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction policies on key climate impacts including per-capita emissions, atmospheric GHG concentrations, mean global temperature and sea level, through 2100.  C-ROADS has been carefully calibrated to the best available peer reviewed science, including the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC.  The scientific review panel that assessed the model concluded that C-ROADS “reproduces the response properties of state-of- the-art three dimensional climate models very well… Given the model’s capabilities and its close alignment with a range of scenarios published in the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC we support its widespread use among a broad range of users and recommend that it be considered as an official United Nations tool.”  C-ROADS was developed by the Sustainability Institute, MIT Sloan School of Management, and Ventana Systems. Full documentation and details are available at .

For More Information:

Contacts in Copenhagen through December 19th

Dr. Elizabeth Sawin

Sustainability Institute +1-603-715-0116



Andrew Jones

Sustainability Institute +1-828-231-4576


Sources through Sawin or Jones on specific aspects and implications of the analysis

Contact in the United States

Bas de Leeuw

Sustainability Institute Executive Director

+1-802-436-1277 X100 (office)

For further information please visit:


Inquires at