National plans to and updated climate commitments to curb carbon fall far short of what is needed to avert dangerous climate change, leaving the world on track for a global temperature rise of at least 2.7°C this century, according to the UN Environment Programme.
In the latest Emissions Gap Report 2021: The Heat Is On, the UNEP says that countries’ updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and other commitments made for 2030 only take an additional 7.5 per cent off predicted annual greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the previous round of commitments. The report points out that reduction of 30 per cent is needed to stay on the least-cost pathway for 2°C and 55 per cent for 1.5°C.
The report is the 12th edition in an annual series that provides an overview of the difference between where greenhouse emissions are predicted to be in 2030 and where they should be to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
Stating that Climate change is no longer a future problem, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said “. It is a ‘now’ problem. As we saw this year, devastating impacts are spreading across the globe and growing ever stronger.”
She also stated that climate action so far has been characterized by weak promises. “The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species. We need to go firm. We need to go fast. And we need to start doing it now,” she said.
As of 30 September 2021, 120 countries, representing just over half of global greenhouse gas emissions, had communicated new or updated NDCs. In addition, three G20 members have announced other new mitigation pledges for 2030.
Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 President, said the report underlined the need for countries to show ambitious climate action at COP26. “As this report makes clear, if countries deliver on their 2030 NDCs and net zero commitments which have been announced by the end of September, we will be heading towards average global temperature rises of just above 2C. Complementary analyses suggest that the commitments made in Paris would have capped the rise in temperature to below 4°C,” he said.
Zeroing in on net-zero
The report mentions that net-zero pledges and their effective execution could make a big difference. Now, a total of 49 countries and the EU have pledged a net-zero target, which covers over half of global domestic greenhouse gas emissions, over half of GDP and a third of the global population. Eleven targets are enshrined in law, covering 12 per cent of global emissions.
If net-zero targets are fully endorsed, it could save an extra 0.5°C off global warming, bringing the predicted temperature rise down to 2.2°C. However, the report states that several of the national climate plans delayed action until after 2030, raising doubts over whether net-zero pledges can be delivered. Twelve G20 members have pledged a net-zero target, but they are still highly ambiguous. Action also needs to be frontloaded to make it in line with 2030 goals.
- Following an unprecedented drop of 5.4 per cent in 2020, global carbon dioxide emissions are bouncing back to pre-COVID levels, and concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere continue to rise. A strong rebound in emissions is expected in 2021. Preliminary estimates suggest fossil energy CO2 emissions could grow by 4.8 per cent in 2021 (excluding cement), and global emissions in 2021 are expected to be only slightly lower than the record level of 2019.
- New mitigation pledges for 2030 show some progress, but their aggregate effect on global emissions is insufficient.
- As a group, G20 members are not on track to achieve either their original or new 2030 pledges. Ten G20 members are on track to achieve their previous NDCs, while seven are off track. The G20 members as a group are projected to fall short of achieving their unconditional NDCs by 1.1 GtCO2e annuall Only 10 G20 members (Argentina, China, EU27, India, Japan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the United Kingdom) are likely to achieve their original unconditional NDC targets under current policies.
- The emissions gap remains large: compared to previous unconditional NDCs, the new pledges for 2030 reduce projected 2030 emissions by only 7.5 per cent, whereas 30 per cent is needed for 2°C and 55 per cent is needed for 1.5°C.
- The opportunity to use COVID-19 fiscal rescue and recovery spending to stimulate the economy while fostering a low-carbon transformation has been missed in most countries so far. Poor and vulnerable countries are being left behind.
- Reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors can contribute significantly to closing the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term.
- Carbon markets can deliver real emissions abatement and drive ambition, but only when rules are clearly defined, designed to ensure that transactions reflect actual reductions in emissions, and supported by arrangements to track progress and provide transparency.