U.N. says national pledges failing to keep climate in check

The report said greenhouse gas emissions must fall 30 percent to hit the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of preventing temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius and 55 percent to hit its aspirational target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

All told, current pledges would send temperatures soaring 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the report.

Context: The United States, the U.K., the European Union and other nations have set their sights on the more ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius mark, stating recent climate science demands it to ward off increasingly dire conditions from climate change. But the U.N. report showed nations are not doing nearly enough.

Details: Greenhouse gas emissions are set to rebound to near record levels set in 2019, with carbon dioxide emissions projected to grow 4.8 percent this year following a 5.4 percent drop due to restricted travel and economic activity stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Nations representing about half of global emissions had updated their climate pledges by October. But to have a chance at achieving the aspirational target, the world needs to cut emissions nearly in half this decade.

Enhanced commitments by G-20 nations would amount to an additional reduction of 3 gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030 relative to their older pledges, chiefly from the U.S., EU, U.K., Argentina, Canada, China and Japan. Global annual greenhouse gas emissions this year are nearly 60 gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.

Of the 121 nations that updated their climate pledge, just under half tendered targets that would result in lower emissions compared with their previous plan. Those nations represent 32 percent of global emissions.

Another 18 percent of countries submitted new plans that failed to reduce emissions relative to their first offering. Those countries account for 13 percent of emissions.

The remaining nations with new commitments — accounting for 7 percent of global emissions — were too difficult to compare with their earlier, less detailed versions, according to the report.

Net-zero hope: Forty-nine nations plus the EU have rolled out pledges to achieve net-zero emissions — a figure that covers half of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of gross domestic product and a third of global population. Realizing those pledges would keep temperature increases to 2.2 degrees Celsius.

But the report noted those net-zero vows are vague, with few policies currently baked into laws and that most action is punted beyond the near term. That makes those commitments less reliable.

“Nations need to put in place the policies to meet their new commitments, and start implementing them within months. They need to make their net zero pledges more concrete,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, said in a statement.

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