25 October 2021

UN warns countries’ carbon-cutting plans put world on course for 2.7C rises

25 October 2021

National plans by countries to tackle the climate crisis leave the world on track for temperature rises of 2.7C, the UN has warned.

A report by the UN Climate Change body assessed all the national plans that have been put forward by countries to cut emissions over the next decade as part of efforts to meet international targets to curb dangerous warming.

Published in the run up to the latest UN climate summit, it confirms that countries are nowhere near what the science says the world needs to be to limit rising temperatures to globally-agreed goals.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa urged countries to redouble their climate efforts or face a “destabilised world and endless suffering” as a result of the crisis.

Countries attending the Cop26 talks in Glasgow are under pressure to up their ambition on tackling emissions to deliver on promises made in the global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, secured six years ago.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to holding global temperature rises to “well below” 2C and to try to keep warming to 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

But the national plans countries forward for the deal left the world well off-track for the 1.5C and 2C limits, so they have had to submit new or updated plans for action up to 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), by Cop26.

Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering

Keeping temperatures to the 1.5C limit requires cutting emissions by 45% on 2010 levels by 2030, while meeting the 2C goal requires cuts of 25%.

The latest update on national action plans from countries includes 116 new or updated NDCs submitted by 143 countries, including one covering all 27 EU countries, in the run-up to Cop26.

It found that for those 143 countries with new or updated plans, total greenhouse gases are estimated to be about 9% below 2010 levels by 2030.

Of those, 71 have a goal to reach net zero emissions or carbon neutrality by around mid century, which would deliver deep cuts to the overall emissions of that group by 2050.

But an assessment of all the available plans from all 192 parties to the UN climate process shows the world is set to see a 16% increase in global greenhouse emissions by 2030 on 2010 levels.

That would put the planet on track for temperature rises of 2.7C by the end of the century, without quick action to change direction.

Ms Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the new and updated action plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions represent a commitment to acting on climate change.

“At the same time, the message from this update is loud and clear: parties must urgently redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond the Paris Agreement’s goal of well below 2C, ideally 1.5C, by the end of the century.

“Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.”

The report from UN Climate Change has been produced so countries have the most up-to-date information before Cop26, and includes extra plans put forward since a full analysis on the issue in September.

Ms Espinosa said the update confirmed what the earlier report showed: “That we are nowhere near where science says we should be.”

Incoming Cop26 President Alok Sharma said the latest report made clear that “to protect the world from the most devastating impacts of climate change, countries must take more ambitious action on emissions, and they must act now”.

He said that if countries delivered on their 2030 promises and on their commitments to cut emissions to net zero, it could limit temperature rises to just over 2C, compared to below 4C under the original Paris plans.

He urged the biggest emitters in the G20 nations who had not submitted new or updated plans to bring forward stronger commitments to keep the 1.5C goal in reach.

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