Even after countries – excluding New Zealand – unveiled ambitious new pledges to cut emissions, it’s still not enough to achieve the global goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius of climate warming, a new report found.
Under the Paris Agreement, the world promised to limit warming to “well below” 2C, and preferably 1.5C to avoid catastrophic climate change. At 1.1C, the world is already experiencing increasingly extreme heatwaves and rainfall.
Ahead of the major climate summit in Glasgow, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) crunched the numbers on the carbon-cutting pledges made to date by all 192 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement, against the temperature goals. They found an 13 to 28 billion tonne emissions hole.
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Since the last major climate summit in 2019, countries have announced new carbon-cutting pledges. Some set goals for 2030 – which is the current focus of the Paris Agreement. These are known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. Some have provisos, while others are unconditional.
Late last year, the European Union increased its NDC to reduce emissions, originally 40 per cent, to 55 per cent by 2030.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Government announced it would lift its goal of 30 percent by the end of the decade, to between 40-45 per cent. The UK upped its 2030 goal from 53 per cent to 68 per cent.
After being elected last year, US president Joe Biden promised to cut emissions in half by 2030.
At the same time, countries have announced a date by which they will reach net-zero carbon dioxide or net-zero for all greenhouse gases.
Recently, the US and Japan set 2050 as its net-zero target for all emissions. South Korea pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. China announced it was aiming for carbon-neutrality by 2060.
New Zealand has been notably absent from this spell of announcements. The Government’s last pledge was made in 2015: to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, using 2005 as a baseline. Under the Paris Agreement, all countries were due to submit a more ambitious target in 2020.
In January, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government would submit a tougher target. The announcement is expected to come at the Glasgow climate summit.
As a small economy, New Zealand’s NDC will not sway the dial much. But it may increase pressure on others to increase their ambition.
Yesterday, Australia announced it’s aiming for net zero by 2050, but hasn’t submitting a tighter 2030 goal – currently, an emissions reduction of 26 to 28 per cent.
According to Climate Action Tracker, there are 55 countries that haven’t increased their ambition or submitted a new target. The majority of parties to the Paris Agreement – 109 countries plus the EU, which submits as a bloc – have recently announced a new NDC.
The announcements over the past year aren’t trivial: if successfully implemented, the UN report estimates all the long-term policies (out to 2050 and 2060) combined will save 4 gigatonnes (or 4 billion tonnes) of carbon dioxide.
Looking at the unconditional NDC pledges, these will prevent 2.9 gigatonnes of emissions by 2030.
But that still leaves a big gap, the report concluded. By the end of the decade, the world would need to save the equivalent of another 13 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide to be on track to limit warming to under 2C.
To achieve the goal of 1.5C, countries would need to save another 28 gigatonnes.
This is about twice the annual emissions of China, which produces 27 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas. China’s emissions are rising, but president Xi Jinping announced the second-largest economy will reach peak emissions before 2030.
Global emissions must fall significantly before 2030 to avoid dangerous levels of warming, said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen, in a statement.
“The clock is ticking loudly,” Andersen added. “The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species.”
The report also warned that many countries aren’t even on track to meet their NDCs. It paid particular attention to the G20 countries, rating Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea and the US unlikely to meet their NDC, based on current policies.
In better news, India, Russia and Turkey were expected to beat their NDCs by at least 15 per cent.
The report put two countries on the naughty list: Mexico and Brazil. Both relaxed their carbon targets, rather than making them tighter, offsetting 0.3 gigatonnes of emissions savings from others.
The maths the UN agency uses to analyse the world’s progress has changed, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest planetary health check earlier this year.
Using the new metrics, this boosted the carbon savings of countries’ pledges by 0.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.
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