Commitments made during the first week of the COP26 climate change summit, if delivered, would close the so-called ‘ambition gap’ by 9 gigatonnes of CO2 – leaving a further 13 gigatonnes still to go, according to new analysis presented by the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC).

However, ETC chair Lord Adair Turner does not believe the second week of the landmark climate change summit will deliver commitments to cover all of that 13 gigatonnes.

“Add it all up - the NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions} and the sectoral commitments - and we are probably on a path to about 9 gigatonnes of reductions out of the 22 [gigatonnes] needed, with potential for further important reduction commitments next week,” said Turner.

“It’s good progress but of course still not enough and even with further progress next week – on steel, aviation, shipping – we are not going to achieve the full 22 gigatonnes we need; we’re not going to be able to go home from Glasgow saying job done.”

To keep alive the 1.5 Celsius ambition, annual CO2 emissions in 2030 will need to be reduced by a total of 22 gigatonnes, more than half of the emissions associated with the business-as-usual model.

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Many of the world’s leaders came together in Glasgow with the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Action on methane is also crucial to achieving 1.5°C, with an estimated 40% reduction required in 2030 annual methane emissions needed compared to the business-as-usual pathway.

The same analysis finds that, if delivered, commitments by the close of the first week at COP26 would account for one-third of this 40% reduction.

The UNFCCC notes that to achieve 1.5°C, both CO2 and methane emissions in 2030 must be lower than what a business-as-usual pathway would deliver.

Vital priority

The ETC said cutting methane emissions is a “vital priority” – such emissions totalled 380m tonnes in 2018, coming in roughly equal proportions from fossil fuel production, waste management and food production, primarily meat.

“Methane is a hugely powerful greenhouse gas and cutting methane emissions is the fastest acting tool we have to limit global temperature rise,” said the commission.

Action by the close of the first week of COP26 has begun to narrow the gap between what annual CO2 and methane emissions in 2030 are expected to be, and what they need to be to achieve 1.5°C.

Leading into COP26, Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, made as part of the Paris Agreement, fell far short of keeping the planet’s average temperature rise within 1.5°C, as noted in an earlier ETC analysis published in September.

The new analysis, unveiled on Friday, assessed the potential impact of total commitments to date by the close of the first week of Glasgow in bending the curve towards 1.5°C.

A good start

The ETC called this week’s Global Methane Pledge, which is supported by more than 100 countries that together account for around 45% of global methane emissions and commits them to a 30% cut, a “good start” while saying that more still needs to be done.

“Provided those commitments are met – that could cut methane emissions 50 million tonnes by 2030 - not the full 130 million tonnes we could and should achieve but a good start on which to build,” said the commission.

The September ETC report noted the potential to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2030, through a 60% reduction in fossil emissions and a 30% reduction in agriculture and waste emissions – combined reductions are equivalent to 130 million tonnes of methane.

The latest analysis reflects new public and private sector commitments made during the first week of COP26, and the additional commitments made by the private sector through the UN Race to Zero in the run up to COP26, which were not reflected in the initial analysis of the emissions gap in September.

This analysis noted that on a business-as-usual pathway, annual CO2 emissions in 2030 would be around 43 gigatonnes, based on Climate Action Tracker analysis.

However, it found that low-cost actions could cut fossil fuels-related emissions by 60% by 2030, while emissions arising from agriculture and waste management could be reduced by 30%.

An immediate ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, combined with a phase-out of existing coal plants, could deliver 3.5 gigatonnes of additional emissions reductions by 2030, according to the commission.

However, while Indonesia, Poland and Vietnam and other major coal users this week committed to the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement, China and India were not among the signatories. And with commitments focused on the 2030s and 2040s, these commitments in themselves will only deliver 0.2 gigatonnes of the 3.5 gigatons potential, lamented the ETC.

Further commitments are expected over the coming week at COP26, which runs until 12 November.

“… we have new commitments which will make a difference, and which must be delivered, and we have a springboard for further progress which we must achieve over the next few years sector by sector, and reflect in improved NDCs,” added Turner.

“We can achieve that, and we must achieve that, so let’s maximise progress over the next week and leave Glasgow to do still more in the coming months and years.”