United Nations officials have sized up climate plans from around the globe and warned nations they must "urgently redouble" their efforts, or the world will fail to meet the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming.
The Paris Agreement’s target is to limit the global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius — ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius — by 2100 compared with pre-industrial levels.
On Friday, the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published its NDC Synthesis report about climate action plans as communicated by countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).
The UN acknowledged some alarming findings. The available climate plans of all 191 parties together imply a sizeable increase of about 16% in global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 compared to 2010.
Such an increase — unless actions are taken immediately — may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings.
“The 16% increase is a huge cause of concern," said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UNFCCC.
"It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world.
“We need to peak emissions as soon as possible before 2030 and to support developing countries in building up climate resilience," she said.
Time to deliver
Wealthier nations pledged more than a decade ago to mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020 to enhance climate action by developing countries, but they have not yet fulfilled this vital commitment, Espinosa pointed out.
“It’s time to deliver — COP26 is the place to do so," she said.
"Developing countries need this support in order to act as ambitiously as possible.”
The synthesis report was requested by parties to the Paris Agreement to help them assess progress of climate action ahead of the UN's COP26 climate summit this November in Glasgow.
The report includes the latest information from all 191 parties' contributions to the Paris Agreement based on their latest plans available in the interim NDC registry as of 30 July, including from 86 updated or new plans submitted by 113 parties. The new or updated climate plans cover about 59% of parties to the Paris Agreement and account for about 49% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
For those with new or updated plans, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to fall by 12% in 2030 compared to 2010. The UN called this an important step towards the required reductions identified by the IPCC, which estimated that limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius needs a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, or a 25% reduction over the same period to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Progress by some
In the group with new or updated climate plans, 70 countries indicated carbon neutrality goals by around the middle of the century. These goals could lead to even greater emissions reductions of about 26% by 2030, compared to 2010.
“The synthesis shows that countries are making progress towards the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals," Espinosa said.
"This means that the in-built mechanism set up by the Paris Agreement to allow for a gradual increase of ambition is working.”
A sizeable number of planned contributions from developing countries contain conditional commitments to reduce emissions, which can only be implemented with access to enhanced financial resources and other support. Full implementation could allow for global emissions to peak by 2030, the report suggests.
Ahead of COP26, the UN will issue an update on 25 October that will cover all nations' climate plans submitted on or before 12 October.
Espinosa called for stepped up ambition in revising those contribution plans ahead of the Glasgow gathering.
“This report is clear: Ambitious climate action can avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, but only if all nations act together," said Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 president.
Action is needed, especially from the biggest economies, to avoid the efforts so far from being made in vain, he said.
The latest new or updated climate plans show a marked improvement in the quality of information presented, for both mitigation and adaptation, the UN noted.
COP25 president Carolina Schmidt called explicitly for the major emitters to deliver their commitments "so that together we can prevent the temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius".
"The IPCC report shows us that we can achieve it, but only if we are all working decisively in the same direction,” she said.
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