Less than a week before the United Nations deadline for countries to file greenhouse-gas pledges necessary to keep a global climate change deal on track, it looks like most of the world is missing in action.
Ahead of the March 31 target, only the European Union and Switzerland have unveiled plans, representing about 10 per cent of global emissions. The United States has promised to hit the deadline. The rest of the world’s major economies, including China, India, Australia and Japan, are unlikely to complete submissions in time, according to environmental groups tracking U.N. climate talks.
More than 190 nations are scheduled to meet in Paris in December to craft an international deal aimed at slowing global warming. Countries may be holding off on individual plans as long as possible to see what others are doing and to shrink the time for negotiation on their own programs, suggested Wai-Shin Chan, a strategist at HSBC Holdings Plc.
“There’s a bit of a waiting game going on,” Chan said by telephone from Hong Kong. Delaying “doesn’t really give other countries much time to scrutinize and assess, and say ‘We’ll do more if you do more.'”
The holdup shows the obstacles facing negotiators as they seek a plan to avoid catastrophic global warming. The U.N. wants the plans to be submitted well before the meeting to avoid a last-minute pile-up like the that one that sank the talks in Copenhagen in 2009.
“It’s very important that as many major economies as possible share their offers early,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of climate programs at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group.
The proposals come in what the UN calls intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs. They’re supposed to contain voluntary measures for each nation to pare back fossil-fuel use, accelerate renewable energy and adapt to rising seas and other measures.
Negotiators in Warsaw in 2013 agreed to submit pledges by the end of the first quarter of 2015 for “those parties ready to do so,” a phrase signaling the date wasn’t a hard deadline. The UN can analyze the submissions made until Oct. 1.
“It seems difficult to understand why a major economy would not be ready,” Franz Perrez, the Swiss climate envoy, said by email. “This would clearly undermine the trust in partners.”