States and regions putting Paris goals within reach, but only in the short-term

States and regions including California, Rio De Janeiro, Wales and Scotland are implementing "exemplary" near-term ambitions to place a 2C-world within reach, although a lack of long-term targets could stunt progress after 2030.

That is the overarching view of the annual Compact of States and Regions Disclosure Report, which analyses the climate commitments of 62 states, regions and provinces – collectively worth $12.9trn in GDP and accountable for 3.1GtCO2e – that have voluntarily agreed to disclose updates to short and long-term targets to the Climate Group and CDP.

The report found that around a fifth of the disclosing governments have already reached or exceeded 2020 targets covering GHG emissions reductions, renewable energy capacity and energy efficiency targets. These governments are Carinthia, Catalonia, Connecticut, Lombardy, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and Scotland – and have delivered these targets, on average, six years ahead of schedule.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said: “The report is powerful evidence how these governments continue to go the extra mile in bold climate policies and action.

“It is particularly heartening to see that some states and regions are already targeting net zero emissions. The [Paris] Agreement’s strength rests not just on central government action but the unprecedented support and growing enthusiasm of business, investors, citizens, cities, states, provinces and regions.”

The report found that 65% of governments disclosing base year emission reduction goals are currently below baseline levels. All of the disclosing governments have agreed to reduce per capita carbon intensity by around 65% mid-century.

While the report praises the governments for their “exemplary” 2020 targets, it warns that governments should seek to “continuously track progress against their targets and adjust their climate policies, incentives and actions accordingly”. So far around 50% of the governments have disclosed 2050 targets.

The report estimates that the 62 governments are on course to reduce collective emissions from 2.8GtCO2e from 2016 to 1.2GtCO2e by 2050, creating a 59% reduction in absolute emissions. However, if states and regions wish to hit the 2C pathway, ambitious and long-term targets will need to be strengthened, the report notes.

Homeward bound

Wales and Scotland, the only two UK representatives on the list, have set 2050 targets to reduce emissions by 80%, while Scotland has already surpassed its 42% reduction target for 2020. Despite Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant saying he was “confident” that the Wales target was achievable, the country has reduced emissions by just 12% since 2010.

The Scottish Government’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am pleased to say that Scotland has achieved it emissions reduction target of 42% by 2020 six years early with emissions down by 45.8% between 1990 and 2014. We are proud of the progress we have made but we know we can go further. In 2017, the Scottish Government will bring forward a package of measures to ensure that Scotland continues to cut emissions.”

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has previosuly said that Scotland’s “vibrant renewable sector” and “bold policy approaches” will take the country beyond the UK’s ambition on climate change and help deliver a 61% reduction in emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels.

Top Trumps

Despite this, the report highlights that it is the US regions that are “taking the lead”. All seven states listed in the report have disclosed 2050 emissions targets, the lowest of which is a 50% goal in Washington.

Washington and New York were two of the 35 US cities that last week called on president-elect Donald Trump to partner with them to tackle climate change, which the city mayors described as “an urgent and growing threat to our national security”. The 35 cities penned a letter to Trump calling for climate cooperation.

US cities seemed that have echoed the calls from some of the private sector’s biggest firms. Last month, more than 360 US-based businesses and investors, including Ikea, Unilever, Mars and Nike, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the Paris deal and the need to accelerate the low-carbon transition with Trump at the helm.

Matt Mace

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