Climate commitments still fall short of compliance with the Paris Agreement

A few days after starting the Glasgow Climate Summit (COP26), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) today presented its long-awaited Annual Report on the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Gap, called heat is on, which compares the emission reductions promised by countries and those needed to meet the Paris Agreement.

Experts point out that 30% reductions in emissions are needed to stay on the 2°C trajectory and 55% to 1.5°C

The work reveals that the current nationally determined contributions (CDNs), which each country has pledged to deliver and improve to achieve a substantial reduction in CO emissions.two, are currently not sufficient to achieve the goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 ºC.

According to the report, current climate commitments represent only an additional 7.5% reduction in projected annual greenhouse gas emissions for 2030, compared to the previous round of commitments. Experts point out that 30% reductions in emissions are needed to stay on the 2°C trajectory and 55% to 1.5°C.

“The picture the report outlines is bleak: less than half of the CDNs received from governments are actually more ambitious than the first round presented in 2015 or 2016”, he emphasizes. Joanna depledge, researcher at the Center for the Environment, Energy and Governance of Natural Resources of Cambridge (United Kingdom).

“Climate change is no longer a problem for the future. It’s a problem for now,” he recalls Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

Half of the commitments

As of September 30, 2021, only 120 countries, responsible for just over half of global greenhouse gas emissions, reported their new NDCs. Only three G20 members have announced new 2030 mitigation pledges.

To have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the world has eight years to reduce annual emissions by another 28 gigatons of COtwo equivalent (GtCO2e), in addition to what was promised in the updated PADs and other commitments for 2030.

To put that number in perspective, carbon dioxide emissions alone are expected to reach 33 gigatonnes by 2021. If all other greenhouse gases are taken into account, annual emissions are around 60 GtCO2e.

Experts agree that the work, which is in its twelfth edition, features a glaring contradiction in the spirit of the Paris Agreement: “Several G20 countries have sent updated CDNs that are no better than their previous offer (Australia, Brazil and Mexico), or are so weak that they do not require additional policy measures (Russia),” he regrets Depledge.

In this way, two main gaps are revealed. The first is observed in the ambition gap between the countries’ promises and the cuts needed to meet their targets. “The second, even more worrying, is a implementation gap“Many large issuers are not even on track to meet their existing national commitments,” the expert continues.

According to Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change and Director of the Priestley Center at the University of Leeds (UK),This presents a very bleak picture. It’s true that the 2030 emissions gap still exists, but if you look at their numbers, you’ll see that the gap in long-term emissions targets is almost closed.”

Many of the G20 countries, including the UK, have not yet turned in their CDNs. “These national plans demonstrate that the cost of action is much less than that of inaction, so we risked everything at the COP to further close those gaps,” adds Forster.

Hope remains with zero net commitment

Regardless, the report opens a window for the hope for the purposes of climate neutrality. A total of 49 countries, in addition to the European Union, have pledged a target of zero net, like Spain for 2050, which will achieve net emissions equal to zero by balancing the amount released into the atmosphere with the equivalent captured or withdrawn.

“More importantly, the Zero Targets club now includes the two biggest emitters in the world, China and USA”Says Depledge. After closing the report, Saudi Arabia (2060) and Australia (2050) also committed to the net zero target.

This accounts for more than half of national greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of GDP and a third of the world’s population. There are also eleven targets set by law, which cover 12% of global emissions.

In that sense, the report shows for the first time in a full chapter that carbon neutral promises can make a big difference. These commitments could reduce another 0.5 °C and thus leave the expected increase in global temperature at 2.2 °C, if fully met.

“The verdict is mixed. On the one hand, if applied, the current net zero targets would reduce temperature projections for the next century by about half a degree, bringing central estimates closer to 2 °C, although they were not very much in line with maintaining global warming. low. below 2 ° C and much less than 1.5 ° C “, highlights Joeri Rogelj, researcher and one of the main authors of two chapters of the report.

But the appeal of the zero network is also its weakness: “It is a long-term goal, far away in time, which allows for the postponement of difficult decisions”, he emphasizes. Joanna depledge.

So these promises of net zero remain vague and incomplete In many cases, countries’ short-term goals still do not put emissions on a clear path to reduction. Twelve members of the G20 have promised a net goal of zero, but they remain highly ambiguous.

“This casts doubt on whether these commitments will ever be met. Countries can alleviate these doubts by going one step further and moving from targets to strategies, plans and policies to achieve zero-emission ambitions on the ground,” says Rogelj.

Anticipated actions are also needed to bring it in line with the 2030 targets. “The world needs to wake up from the imminent danger we face as a species,” says Andersen.

The potential of methane and market mechanisms

As every year, the report also examines the potential of specific sectors. This time, he focuses on the methane and the market mechanisms. The reduction of methane emissions from the sectors of fossil fuels, a waste and the agriculture it can help close the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term.

Methane emissions are the second largest contributor to global warming. This gas has a global warming potential more than 80 times greater than that of the carbon dioxide in a 20-year horizon; Also, your life in the atmosphere is shorter than COtwo – just twelve years, compared to hundreds of years for the last – so reductions in methane will limit temperature rise faster than carbon dioxide.

Available low- or no-cost technical measures alone could reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by about 20% a year. Applying all of the measures, together with broader structural and behavioral measures, could reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by approximately 45%.

O carbon markets, in turn, have the potential to reduce costs and therefore encourage more ambitious reduction commitments, but only if the rules are clearly defined are they designed to ensure that transactions reflect actual emissions reductions and have agreements to track progress and provide transparency.

Revenues raised through these markets could fund mitigation and adaptation solutions at the national level and in vulnerable nations, where the burden of climate change is greatest.

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