Countries’ Latest Climate Commitments Still Increase Global Emissions 10.6% by 2030
Scene at last year’s Glasgow’s COP26 Climate Conference, which punted the ball on hard decisions about climate emissions to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Countries’ voluntary commitments to fight climate change will still mean an increase in global emissions by some 10.6% as of 2030, according to the latest report of UN Climate Change,  which tabulates the most recent ‘Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) of countries to the climate battle.

This represents only a slight “improvement” over the commitments as of the same time last year – when countries were projected to increase climate change emissions by 13.7% as of 2030, in comparison to 2010 levels rather than make the drastic reductions needed to halt dangerous warming trends.

At the current pace, the world remains on track for a 2.5 C increase in global temperatures by the end of the century, warns the new report by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, released less than two weeks ahead of the start of the UN Climate Conference (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Positive signs of movement – but not nearly fast enough

UN Climate Change officials noted that the receipt of some new or updated climate commitments, made by some two dozen countries over the past year, had bent the curve of emissions increases downward, but only slightly.

“Today’s 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,” stated UN Climate Change in a press release.

But this is still very far away from the 43% reduction in emissions that has been identified by scientists as the required target to keep warming limited to 1.5 C.

“The latest science from the IPCC released earlier this year uses 2019 as a baseline, indicating that greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 43% by 2030,” the press release stated. “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”,”

Additionally, the report only assesses the impacts of countries’ climate commitments – not their actual implementation. And in many cases, the commitments made by heads of state have not translated into legislative actions or financial investments needed to follow them through.

“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 towards 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.”

The UN Climate Change assessment covers the climate action plans – or NDCs – of the 193 Parties to the Paris Agreement. Some 24 countries have submitted new or updated NDCs since last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26). Taken together, the plans cover 94.9% of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

Sharm el Sheikh will be pivotal moment 

Can fossil fuels give way to solar power? COP27 may provide some answers.

The UN Climate report refers to “glimmers of hope” in an otherwise gloomy picture, citing a second UN Climate Change report, also released today, on the prospects for the more robust development of long-term low-emission development strategies.

The review of 62 countries’ plans to transition to net-zero emissions by or around mid-century found that these countries’ greenhouse gas emissions could be roughly 68% per cent lower in 2050 than in 2019 if all the long-term strategies were fully implemented on time.

These countries’ long-term strategies also account for 83% of the world’s GDP, 47% of the 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, many net-zero targets remain “uncertain and postpone into the future” and critical action needs to take place now, the UN Climate Change secretariat stated. “Ambitious climate action before 2030 is urgently needed to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.”

COP26 in Glasgow ended on an ambivalent note with countries’ postponing more decisive action on emissions reductions that scientists say is urgently needed. That left the world with a big “to do list” for this year’s COP27, hosted by Egypt.

Climate impacts more visible – but will that really move politicians?

Pakistani floods have displaced some 33 million people, according to government and UN estimates.

Now, with climate impacts becoming more visible by the day – from the recent, massive flooding in Pakistan and Nigeria to drought and hunger in the Horn of Africa, and wildfires in the western United States, policymakers are at a pivotal moment.

However, war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions between China and its neighbours in the South China Sea and a raft of other regional conflicts and crises, have also provided plenty of distraction to world leaders – as well as propping up fossil fuel production and exports.

In addition, developing countries are clamouring even more adamantly for more action on the “loss and damage” provisions of the 2015 Paris Accord – which are supposed to help countries in the global South adapt to the negative effects of climate change.

Oil and coal-producing countries in Asia and Africa remain keen on developing their unexplored fossil fuel reserves – despite calls from scientists and some global leaders to make a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources. 

Just last week, South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, known for his pro-fossil fuel sentiments, charged that developed economies offering green finance to African economies are using them as “guinea pigs” on which to perform energy experiments.

Such rhetoric pushes aside scientific evidence that climate change is turning all of humanity into guinea pigs with a range of escalating health impacts from weather extremes, diseases and air pollution – while Africa is amongst those regions most at risk.

At the same time, developed countries have failed to come through on a promised $100 billion for financing the Green Climate Fund, part of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate accord that aimed to help the developing world transition out of fossil fuels.

Fund-raising for climate adaptation, which also would be directed into green energy sources, has fallen way short of goals, charged Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo after a visit to France earlier this month.  He was protesting the outcomes of a climate summit in Rotterdam last month, where European Nations pledged only $55 million to climate adapatation- as compared to the $25 billion that is supposed to be committed by 2025, Akufo-Addo has, in the past, spoken out about the importance of Ghana developing its fossil fuel reserves.

“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 a 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.”

Image Credits: UNFCCC , Gellscom/CC BY-ND 2.0., Rahul Rajput.

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