Red coral effectively recovers in Mediterranean protected areas after decades of overexploitation

Protection measures of the Marine Protected Areas have enable red coral colonies (Corallium rubrum) to recover partially in the Mediterranean Sea, reaching health levels similar to those of the 1980s in Catalonia and of the 1960s in the Ligurian Sea (Northwestern Italy).

Sub-national “climate clubs” could offer key to combating climate change

‘Climate clubs’ offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally-harmonised climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Victoria Reyes-García receives an ERC Proof of Concept grant linked to the LICCI project

Victoria Reyes-García ICREA Research Professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is one of the 76 top researchers that will receive ERC Proof of Concept grants.

ICTA-UAB demands the UAB to reduce number of flights

Given our current climate emergency, recently acknowledged by the UAB, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has drawn up a proposal urging the University to put into action a new travel policy to tackle one of its most polluting activities: Flying.

New assessment finds EU electricity decarbonization discourse in need of overhaul

It’s well known that the EU is focusing its efforts on decarbonizing its economy.

ICTA-UAB to organize the International Conference 2020 on Low-Carbon Lifestyle Changes

ICTA-UAB will host the International Conference 2020 on Low-Carbon Lifestyle Changes with the aim of exploring the role of changing lifestyles in climate change mitigation.

Iron availability in seawater, key to explaining the amount and distribution of fish in the oceans

People tend to pay more attention to how much food they are eating, than with how rich their diet is in essential micronutrients like iron.

Mining waste dumped into Portmán Bay continues to release metals into the sea 25 years later

The waters of the Mediterranean Sea continue to receive dissolved metals from the mining waste deposited in Portmán Bay (Murcia) 25 years after the cessation of mining activity.

A new ICTA-UAB project to assess the impacts of micro- and nano-plastics in the tropical and temperate oceans

A new project led by ICTA-UAB researcher Patrizia Ziveri is one of five projects selected for funding by the Joint Programming Initiative Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans (JPI Oceans).

Big data reveals extraordinary unity underlying life’s diversity

Limits to growth lie at the heart of how all living things function, according to a new study carried out by ICTA-UAB researchers  .

Jeroen van den Bergh, awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University of the Netherlands

The environmental economist at ICTA-UAB Prof. Dr Jeroen van den Bergh was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University of the Netherlands.

High lead concentrations found in Amazonian wildlife

Researchers from ICTA-UAB and the UVic-UCC detect high levels of lead concentration in wildlife samples from the Peruvian Amazon caused by lead-based ammunition and oil-related pollution in extraction areas.

Study gauges trees’ potential to slow global warming in the future

The Pyrenean forests, the Cantabrian coast and Galicia show an important potential to accumulate even larger amounts of carbon dioxide in the future and thus help to slow down the increase in CO2 concentrations which are warming the planet.

Why do environmentalists eat meat?

A study by researchers at the ICTA-UAB analyses the reasons why environmentally-minded scientists find it difficult to give up meat consumption, one of the world's greatest environmental problems.

La gestión del verde urbano permite incrementar la presencia de pájaros en las ciudades

Incrementar la biodiversidad del verde urbano permitiría aumentar la presencia de aves paseriformes en las ciudades mediterráneas, según un estudio científico realizado por investigadores del Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Ambientales de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) que analiza qué estrategias hay que implementar sobre la vegetación urbana para conseguir "naturalizar" las ciudades favoreciendo la entrada de flora y fauna.

The Ebro River annually dumps 2.2 billion microplastics into the sea

An ICTA-UAB study analyses the distribution and accumulation of microplastics from one of the main rivers of the western Mediterranean.
Paris Agreement hampered by inconsistent pledges, new ICTA-UAB research finds

Date: 2019-09-10

Some countries' Paris Climate Agreement pledges may not be as ambitious as they appear, according a new study carried out by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). 

The Paris Agreement takes a bottom-up approach to tackling climate change, with countries submitting pledges in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to greenhouse emissions. However, a study by ICTA-UAB researchers published in Environmental Research Letters reveals a lack of consistency and transparency between the various commitments. 

"The Paris Climate Agreement was a step in the right direction for international climate policy. But in its current form, it is at best inadequate and at worst grossly ineffective” says Lewis King, one of the authors. The study highlights significant issues around transparency and consistency in the agreement's pledges, which may be a contributory factor towards the lack of ambition in the pledges from some parties. 

According to co-author Jeroen van den Bergh, "the sum of the agreement's national pledges on greenhouse gas emission mitigation - in the form of NDCs - falls short of meeting the agreement's 2°C target”. 

To shed light on the reasons behind this, the researchers analysed the different country-level commitments by categorising and normalising them to make them comparable. Four categories were identified: (1) absolute emission reductions for a target year in percentage terms relative to a historic base year; (2) the percentage reduction in emissions relative to a 'business as usual' scenario, typically to 2030; (3) the reduction in emission intensity per GDP relative to a historic base year; and (4) projects that do not include an explicit greenhouse gas emission target. The researchers assessed these categories by adding the dimensions of geographic region and emission intensity per capita. 

“Our normalisation of the pledges effectively converts them all to the absolute emission reduction target format (i.e. category 1), thus indicating actual emission change - whether positive or negative - compared with a consistent base year. We found that category 1 pledges came out as having the highest ambition in terms of tangible emissions reduction. By contrast, pledges in the other three categories tend to produce low ambitions with significant emissions increases of 29-53 per cent at a global level” they say, and explain that "we found that Northern America and the EU were the only regions aiming for absolute reductions in emissions. In the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia, substantial increases are expected." 

According to professor van den Bergh, "the current formats of the pledges mean it is difficult to accurately assess and compare what the pledges signify in actual emissions terms. For example, Russia, India and Pakistan all frame their NDCs in terms of percentage reductions; Russia relative to a base year, India relative to emissions per GDP and Pakistan relative to a business-as-usual scenario”. However, after the normalisation, the pledges result in substantial percentage increases in emissions by 2030. “Not only does this make the associated pledges difficult to interpret and compare to other pledges without detailed analysis but may produce a psychological effect of reducing the ambition level due to framing the pledge as a percentage reduction even though emissions actually increase." 

The researchers stress that society has the right to be able to clearly understand and compare climate change commitments by countries, including whether they are fair, ambitious and add up to international climate goals. They also indicate that providing consistent and easily comparable information about national climate goals helps with public acceptance. 

"The current lack of transparency and consistency will hinder the NDC process. To move forward, we suggest the principles of transparency and consistency from the TACCC (Transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability, and consistency) framework of the Paris Agreement are extended to the framing of the NDCs themselves. This would be easy to achieve, by having countries convert their pledges into clear emission targets relative to the most recent available base year, inclusive of all significant gases and sectors”. Not only can this help produce targets of greater ambition that are more open to external scrutiny, but it also will assist in improving effectiveness through minimising counterproductive systemic effects, such as carbon leakage from countries with strong to those with weak climate policy.

King L.C., van den Bergh J.C.J.M (2019). Normalisation of Paris agreement NDCs to enhance transparency and ambition. Environmental Research Letters

Available online: 

ICTA's Activities