The world is (still) failing to come close to its climate goals
UFRENCH NEWS documents tend to be snarky to avoid. It is a sign of great frustration, then, that the latest edition of the UN Environment Programme’s “Emissions Gap” report – released on November 20 – is just that. Its title, “Broken Record”, reflects both that this year is likely to be the hottest on record and that global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising (after 1.2% growth in 2022). But it is also a rude reference to the report itself, and in response to it. It has been published annually since 2010, with each edition explaining the disconnect between what needs to be done to meet countries’ climate goals and what they are actually doing. But the situation, the authors note, is still characterized by a “failure to rigorously reduce emissions” in rich countries and “prevention of further emissions growth” in poor countries. .
The numbers – for the most part – bear out this grim assessment. The 2015 Paris agreement committed signatories to keeping global temperature increases to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and ideally to 1.5°C. But countries currently have “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) – the commitments to reduce emissions that the agreement must make – to put the world on track for 2.5- 2.9 °C by 2100. A better outcome is theoretically possible: the report finds that, in the “most optimistic scenario” (where all NDCs and net-zero commitments are met), that temperature increase could be limited to 2 ° C. The evidence, however, suggests that taking comfort from that outlook would be illusory.
Many of the commitments made in NDCs are conditional, meaning that they are dependent on the countries making them receive more money. Not exceeding 2°C would require all parts of each NDC – both conditional and unconditional – to be met. At the same time, the failure of rich countries to commit $100bn a year by 2020 to poor countries is one of the main reasons for the anger and bitterness that accompanies international environmental negotiations. (An analysis published last week by the OECD, a club of mostly rich economies, suggests that the $100bn target may finally be met in 2022 – two years late. ) Moreover, as it stands, countries are not cutting emissions fast enough to achieve it. their own promises. Canada, for example, is expected to miss its emissions reduction target for 2030 by 27%, America by 19%, Britain by 11% and the EU by 9% (see chart).
There are (few) reasons to be cheerful. When the Paris agreement was signed, it looked like the planet was getting ready for warming beyond 3°C, and the consequences would be dire. A path to 2.5-2.9°C is an improvement, if unacceptably small. The share of renewable energy has increased significantly, although much of that has gone towards meeting growing demand rather than driving fossil fuels out of the mix. .
However, an analysis by Berkeley Earth, an American research group, indicates that this year is very likely to be the first in which the global average temperature will enter at more than 1.5°C above those before the industrial revolution. (The best estimates from America’s NOAA and Europe’s NASA and Copernicus – the other major databases – are 1.29°C, 1.35°C and 1.46°C, respectively.) The devastating effects of heat waves and other extreme weather can be seen everywhere. At COP28 – the UN climate summit starting in Dubai at the end of this month – countries will take the first “global stock check”, a detailed record of their progress. That makes it clearer than ever how far behind they are. Without significant immediate change, the authors of the Emissions Gap report predict that they will be stuck in the same trap “next year – and the year after that, and the year after that.” after that”. ■
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