UN: Climate commitments must redouble to meet Paris Agreement
Nations must redouble planned climate targets if the world is to meet the minimal threshold of the Paris Agreement, according to a new UN report warning that while emissions are being reduced, the pace of progress is falling behind required rates.
The UN has published its latest Synthesis Report into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted as part of the Paris Agreement. The report was requested by all 191 Parties to the Agreement, to provide an up-to-date assessment on intended climate action prior to COP26 in Glasgow this November.
Based on the latest NDCs available in the interim NDC registry as of July 2021, the report is able to account for 86 new or updated commitments from more than 110 Parties. The latest NDCs cover around 59% of the Parties to the Paris Agreement and almost 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The report found that these NDCs would contribute to a projected decrease in global emissions of 12% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
In comparison, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a 45% reduction would be required by 2030 to reach 1.5C, or 25% to reach 2C. As such, global efforts need to more than double just to meet the 2C threshold of the Paris Agreement.
“I congratulate all Parties that have submitted updated or new NDCs," Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change said. “The synthesis shows that countries are making progress towards the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. This means that the in-built mechanism set up by the Paris Agreement to allow for a gradual increase of ambition is working.
“Knowing how much work on enhancing NDCs has been ongoing, I again call on all Parties that have not yet done so to submit new or updated NDCs. But those Parties that have already made submissions also have the opportunity to revisit their NDCs to increase their level of ambition. The time left before COP26 is short, but I hope we may still see many more NDCs.”
When accounting for all available NDCs from the 191 Parties, the report warns that a “sizable” increase in emissions of around 16% will occur by 2030. When aligned with IPCC findings, this equates to a temperature rise of about 2.7C by the end of the century.
The UN does believe that global emissions can still peak by 2030. A number of NDCs from developing countries, for example, consist of conditional commitments to reduce emissions that could be implemented if access to finance and technology can be provided.
“The implementation of most conditional elements depends on access to enhanced financial resources, technology transfer and technical cooperation, and capacity-building support; availability of market-based mechanisms; and absorptive capacity of forests and other ecosystems,” the report states.
The report reiterates Espinosa’s call for Parties to submit or update NDCs at any time, including in the run-up to COP26. The UN will issue one more NDC update in October.
Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 President, said: “This report is clear: ambitious climate action can avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, but only if all nations act together. Those nations which have submitted new and ambitious climate plans are already bending the curve of emissions downwards by 2030. But without action from all countries, especially the biggest economies, these efforts risk being in vain.
“We can change the course of history for the better. We can and must act, for ourselves, for vulnerable communities and future generations.”
CAFOD’s head of policy Graham Gordon commented: “The synthesis report shows us that the climate crisis has reached a point of no return – act now or face global catastrophe. For many countries in the Global South, climate change is already having life-changing and often deadly impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable in society, so this is no news to them.
With just six weeks to go before COP26, it’s time for world leaders to get serious and take radical action, that meets the scale of what we face, to fight the climate crisis. Current global efforts are still going in the wrong direction, with countries projected to emit more carbon in 2030 than in 2010, which could lead to global warming approaching 2.7C by the end of the century.”
The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) COP26 communications and engagement lead Gareth Redmond-King, said: “The IPCC issued a ‘code red’ for humanity last month - that we’re running out of time to keep warming to 1.5C. But they also indicated that, if we act to cut methane urgently, then we could slow temperature rises and avoid a precious 0.2C of warming by mid-century, and 0.8C by the end.
“Today’s commitment on methane from two of the biggest global emitters, along with the UK, is a swift and welcome reaction to that report. Their leadership could bring other nations on board to take the pledge and hold fossil fuel companies in particular to account to achieve its ambition. Securing significant sign-up to this pledge would be a huge boost to hopes that the COP26 Glasgow climate summit can keep that Paris Agreement goal of 1.5°C within reach.”
The Climate Coalition’s director Ben Margolis said: “In just six weeks world leaders will arrive in Glasgow to scale up measures to tackle climate change. This comes at the end of a year in which floods have washed away livelihoods and wildfires have ripped through communities across the world. The gap between where we currently are and need to be is a chasm. Without big, bold steps to cut emissions, we’re hurtling toward runaway warming with only faulty brakes to stop us.
“But there is still hope - decisive action to cut emissions and draw the fossil fuel era to a close can steer us to a safer future if we act immediately. Public concern on climate has skyrocketed because action on climate is the fight that unites everyone, no matter who we are or where we’re from. If world leaders are looking for permission to act with scale and ambition, there’s never been a greater mandate for climate action than now.”