Pressure mounts on Boris Johnson over UK carbon emissions plan | Environment


Boris Johnson faces a new test of his green commitments as the UK prepares to submit its national plan on future carbon emissions, ahead of crucial UN climate negotiations.Pressure is mounting on the Prime Minister to come up with an ambitious national target – known as the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – on substantially reducing emissions by 2030, as the UK will host the summit Cop26 postponed next year.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke on Thursday on the need for developed countries to strengthen their ambition. In a speech to the European Council on external relations, he said: “By early 2021, countries representing more than 65% of global carbon dioxide emissions and more than 70% of the global economy will have made commitments ambitious in terms of carbon neutrality.

What is the UK NDC and why is it important?

Each country that signed the Paris Agreement has set a target, known as the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But the first cycle of 2015 was not enough to achieve the Paris objective of maintaining global warming. below 2C above pre-industrial levels, with suction at a limit of 1.5C.

The deal contains a ‘ratchet’ mechanism whereby each country must harden its target every five years, so new NDCs must be submitted by December 31, 2020.

Who has developed an updated NDC so far?

Many developing countries but few of the world’s major economies. China has pledged to ensure its emissions peak by 2030, but a new NDC is unlikely before its five-year plan in March. Japan has submitted a barely improved NDC since its 2015 engagement, so it is under pressure to do more. The United States won’t submit one under Donald Trump, but President-elect Joe Biden hopes to prepare one during his first few months in office. The EU hopes to submit an emission reduction target of 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, although discussions are not yet complete and some member states are met with resistance.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed the next UN climate summit – Cop26 – by a year until November 2021, means many countries will miss the deadline, although they will be encouraged to submit to the early next year, so that the NDCs can be analyzed by the UN before Cop26.

What will the UK’s NDC target be?

NDCs contain many elements, but the focal point is a short-term 2030 target on emissions reductions, typically from a 1990 base. For the UK, the potential range will likely be between 65% and 75%.

The lower end of 65% was deemed achievable in a report last year by the UK’s statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee. But that advice will likely be revised in a new report in December, as the head of the CCC told The Guardian the cost of reducing emissions has fallen further.

If the CCC’s research supports a more stringent target, it will be difficult for the government to justify anything below 70%. Less would be seen as lacking in ambition, encouraging other countries to submit weak NDCs, and could lead to contention at Cop26.

“But we are still behind in the race against time. Every country, city, financial institution and business is expected to adopt plans to transition to net zero emissions by 2050. We need to see these plans well in advance of COP26 – especially the NDCs required by the Paris agreement.


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