The report from UN Climate Change underlines the limitations of a 'voluntary' goal based system, especially among the richer countries that have sought to hide behind legal loopholes.
A new report from UN Climate Change shows countries are achieving serious reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions downward but underlines that these efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. That places a huge challenge ahead of the next COP27 meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 to 18 November this year, in terms of achieving any significant breakrhrough.
According to the report, the combined climate pledges of 193 Parties under the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century. That figure is completely inadequate, and indicates much more extreme events to follow climate wise in the coming future.
The report also shows current commitments will increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. This is an improvement over last year’s assessment, which found countries were on a path to increase emissions by 13.7% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
Last year’s analysis showed projected emissions would continue to increase beyond 2030. However, this year’s analysis shows that while emissions are no longer increasing after 2030, they are still not demonstrating the rapid downward trend science says is necessary this decade.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report indicated that CO2 emissions needed to be cut 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. The latest science from the IPCC released earlier this year uses 2019 as a baseline, indicating that GHG emissions need to be cut 43% by 2030. This is critical to meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.
“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. “But the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years.”
UN Climate Change analyzed the climate action plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – of 193 Parties to the Paris Agreement, including 24 updated or new NDCs submitted after the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP 26) up until 23 September 2022. Taken together, the plans cover 94.9% of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
“At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last year, all countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their climate plans,” said Stiell. “The fact that only 24 new or updated climate plans were submitted since COP 26 is disappointing. Government decisions and actions must reflect the level of urgency, the gravity of the threats we are facing, and the shortness of the time we have remaining to avoid the devastating consequences of runaway climate change.”
This is UN Climate Change’s second such report, providing a critical update to last year’s inaugural NDC synthesis report. While the overall findings of the report are stark, there are glimmers of hope.
Most of the Parties that submitted new or updated NDCs have strengthened their commitment to reducing or limiting greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and/or 2030, demonstrating increased ambition in addressing climate change.
A second UN Climate Change report on long-term low-emission development strategies, also released today, looked at countries’ plans to transition to net-zero emissions by or around mid-century. The report indicated that these countries’ greenhouse gas emissions could be roughly 68% per cent lower in 2050 than in 2019, if all the long-term strategies are fully implemented on time.
Current long-term strategies (representing 62 Parties to the Paris Agreement) account for 83% of the world’s GDP, 47% of global population in 2019, and around 69% of total energy consumption in 2019. This is a strong signal that the world is starting to aim for net-zero emissions.
The report notes, however, that many net-zero targets remain uncertain and postpone into the future critical action that needs to take place now. Ambitious climate action before 2030 is urgently needed to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) just around the corner, Stiell called on governments to revisit their climate plans and make them stronger in order to close the gap between where emissions are heading and where science indicates they should be this decade.
“COP 27 is the moment where global leaders can regain momentum on climate change, make the necessary pivot from negotiations to implementation and get moving on the massive transformation that must take place throughout all sectors of society to address the climate emergency,” he said.
Stiell is urging national governments to come to COP 27 to show how they will put the Paris Agreement to work in their home countries through legislation, policies and programs, as well as how they will cooperate and provide support for implementation. He is also calling for nations to make progress at COP 27 in four priority areas: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance.
“COP27 will be the world’s watershed moment on climate action,” said Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President-Designate. “The report from UN Climate Change and before that from the IPCC are a timely reminder for all of us. Raising ambition and urgent implementation is indispensable for addressing the climate crisis. This includes cutting and removing emissions faster and at wider scope of economic sectors, to protect us from more severe adverse climate impacts and devastating loss and damage.”
“The synthesis report is a testimony to the fact that we are off-track on achieving the Paris Climate Goal and keeping the 1.5 degrees within reach,” added Shoukry. “This is a sobering moment, and we are in a race against time. Several of those who are expected to do more, are far from doing enough, and the consequences of this is affecting lives and livelihoods across the globe. I am conscious that it is and should be a continuum of action until 2030 then 2050, however, these alarming findings merit a transformative response at COP27.”
COP 26 President Alok Sharma said: “It is critical that we do everything within our means to keep 1.5C in reach, as we promised in the Glasgow Climate Pact. These reports show that although we have made some progress – and every fraction of a degree counts – much more is needed urgently. We need the major emitters to step up and increase ambition ahead of COP27.”