Last week, the United Nations (UN) published its initial report on the progress towards the Paris Agreement based on nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The conclusion? We are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement.
As a quick reminder, the Paris Agreement is the landmark climate deal that was signed in 2015. This legally binding treaty committed 196 nations to limited global warming to well below 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, though preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. All signatories are required to submit NDCs, which define the country’s targets and contributions towards the overall agreement.
Part of the agreement also includes revising the NDCs every five years, starting this year. The upgrading of the targets is to encourage countries to take more ambitious action, which is essential in driving us closer towards the 1.5 degree goal. Currently, global commitments take us to almost 3 degree warming, which will have catastrophic impacts on communities and the environment.
With COP26 now around the corner, many countries have published new targets. What we want to see is country commitments for emissions reductions getting more and more ambitious with time.
Unfortunately, that isn’t happening.
The report from the UN shows that despite many nations increasing their individual levels of ambition to reduce emissions, their combined impact puts them on a path to achieve a less than 1 per cent reduction by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. To meet the 1.5 degree target, the percent reduction should be 45 percent lower than 2010.
The United Kingdom and the European Union were the only two major emitters who presented updated NDC plans that contained ambitious climate reduction targets. Other key players such as Brazil and Mexico produced plans that allow for an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, Australia did not change its emissions reductions commitments but simply re-submitted its NDC, and three major emitters (USA, China and India) did not submit revised NDCs, though the USA is set to submit its revised plan in April.
The Climate Action Tracker, a consortium made up of Climate Analytics and the New Climate Institute, published its latest analysis of where we stand with global climate targets in an interactive visual, which better visualises where we are and where we need to go.
We have been in a chicken and egg situation with solving the climate crisis for too long. Governments have been waiting for business and the public to demand stringent climate action to take a bolder stand, investors have been waiting for business, and business has been waiting for government and investors. The tide is shifting, and it’s time to embrace it.
As we look to Glasgow in December for COP26, we must see growing ambition from governments worldwide, and the business sector has a role to play. By making public net zero emissions reductions commitments, the private sector can signal to government that it’s ready to play its part in the global fight against climate change.
The science is there, we know what we need to do, now it’s time to commit to it and get it done.
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