The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) monitoring body analyzed the policies of 36 countries, as well as the 27 countries of the European Union, and found that not all major economies were on track to contain the warming climatic to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Countries together account for 80% of global emissions.
The analysis also included some low-emission countries and found The Gambia to be the only country among the 37 to be “1.5 compatible”. As the study only included a few small emitters, it is possible that other developing countries in the world are also on the right track.
As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, more than 190 countries agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, ideally to 1.5 degrees. Scientists have said 2 degrees is a critical threshold for some of Earth’s ecosystems and that it will also trigger more catastrophic extreme weather events.
The report comes less than two months before the international climate talks hosted by the UN in Glasgow, known as COP26. The chairman of the event, British MP Alok Sharma, said he hoped to “keep 1.5 alive” as the limit of global warming.
“In May, after the St Petersburg Climate Leaders Summit and Dialogue, we reported that there seemed to be a good momentum with new commitments on climate action,” said Niklas Höhne, partner founder of the NewClimate Institute, partner of CAT.
“But since then, there has been little or no improvement: nothing is changing,” he said. “Anyone might think they have plenty of time, when in fact it’s the opposite.
Six countries, including the UK, have a comprehensive climate policy that is ‘nearly sufficient’, according to the report, meaning they are not yet compatible with a 1.5 degree alignment but could be with small improvements. UK targets are 1.5 degrees compliant, but its policies in practice do not meet the benchmark.
The U.S., European Union and Japan’s comprehensive climate plans are not enough to meet the 1.5-degree target, the analysis found, saying that while their national targets are relatively close to what ‘they must be, their international policies are not.
The CAT had previously categorized the United States as “critically insufficient” – the worst category – under former President Donald Trump, who formally withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement shortly before the end of his term.
The US domestic emission reduction target has since been raised to “near sufficient”. However, the US still falls short of CAT’s “fair share” target rating, which takes into account the country’s “responsibility and capacity”.
As part of the Paris Agreement, countries submitted their emission reduction commitments, also known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. All signatories were expected to update their NDCs by July 31 of this year under the Paris agreement. There are still over 70 countries that have yet to submit an update.
India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among the countries that missed the July 31 deadline. China, the world’s biggest polluter, has announced a new target, but has not officially submitted it to the UN.
And many countries have submitted an “update” without actually increasing their commitment. Brazil and Mexico submitted the same targets as in 2015. Changes in these countries’ baseline assumptions make their commitments lower than before, according to the analysis. Russia, according to the CAT report, submitted an update that looks more solid on paper, but does not constitute a significant change.
“Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland and Vietnam are of particular concern: they have not lifted their ambitions at all, submitting identical 2030 targets or even less ambitious than those they proposed in 2015. These countries need to rethink their choices, ”said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, another CAT partner.
The continued use of coal remains a significant political issue, according to the report, with China and India maintaining huge coal pipelines. Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea also plan to use coal in the future.
The CAT also warned that in attempts by many countries to wean off coal, which are typically the most emitting fossil fuels, many countries were looking to use more natural gas, which the CAT said was falsely sold as a “transitional fuel”.
The Australian government, which has said it will continue to mine coal beyond 2030, is also investing money in new gas exploration and infrastructure, and “is of particular concern,” the CAT said in its report.
Thailand plans to increase gas as it phase out coal, while the EU still plans to commit public funds for new gas infrastructure, and various member states are pushing for continued use. of this fossil fuel.
Hare cautioned against developing blue hydrogen, made from natural gas, as an alternative to other fossil fuels.
“Gas is a fossil fuel, and any investment in gas today risks becoming a stranded asset. And while interest in green hydrogen has grown exponentially, there are still a large number of hydrogen projects in the pipeline where it is produced from gas, ”Hare said. . “Hydrogen produced from gas always produces carbon and does not achieve net zero. “
Net zero by 2050
Reducing emissions is a non-negotiable part of the Paris Agreement. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap solar radiation in the atmosphere, much like glass traps heat in a greenhouse. This causes increased temperatures and extreme weather events, melting ice, rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans.
To keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the world must reach net zero by 2050, a landmark UN climate science report released in August showed.
Net zero refers to a state where the amount of greenhouse gases emitted is not greater than the amount removed from the atmosphere.
According to UN Climate Change, just over 130 countries have pledged to reduce their emissions to zero so far. CAT’s new analysis found that even if everyone followed their plans, the warming would still reach 2 degrees.
If they stick to the policies they’ve put in place, temperatures will likely be 2.4 degrees warmer by the end of the century.
Temperatures are already about 1.2 degrees higher than they were before humans started burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, so there is very little room for error.
“A growing number of people around the world are suffering increasingly severe and frequent impacts of climate change, but government action is lagging behind what is needed,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics think tank and other author of the analysis.
While many governments have pledged to achieve net zero, Hare said without real action in the near future, achieving net zero will be “next to impossible.”