Lies, Damned Lies and Climate Targets

You have lies, damned lies, statistics and then you have climate targets which may be the most dishonest of all.

The UK πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ was the first country to declare a legally binding net zero target for 2050, a point which carbon emissions and absorption should be equal. Great news right? First in the world!🌍

No, Sweden πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ͺ actually declared a 2045 target well before the UK did. The UK was just the first country to choose the year 2050 which is a very sneaky bit of messaging. Still, China has a 2060 target so at least we beat them

Or did we?

Net zero is a lovely ambition but you don’t measure the input and output of carbon every year, it’s too much effort. We base targets on baseline years, the UK predictions work from a 1990 baseline. Essentially this means “reducing” (including offsetting) emissions 100% from what they were in 1990. 

China however are reducing their 2005 emissions by 100% by 2060. That is an extra 15 years on our baseline but only 10 years more on the target. Worse still, carbon emissions were far higher in 2005 than 1990 meaning the Chinese aim is actually far more ambitious despite being worse on paper

More vexing, “legally binding” targets are set in law so successive governments, in theory, uphold them. However between now and 2050 there could be 5-10 different governments in power. Who would be held accountable for missing the target? None of them is the answer, “legally binding” is not a term that can be enforced. Even a state government like China’s won’t prosecute itself.

In summary, headline target figures mean little without knowing the baseline they are talking about as everyone is trying to reduce “100% of emissions” from different years meaning they are not comparable.
Comparing climate targets of nations is like comparing progress in a race where everyone starts and ends in different places. The headline number is arguably the least important point of all.

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