A new report from UN Climate Change shows countries are bending the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions downward but underlines that these efforts remain insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
According to the report, the combined climate pledges of 193 Parties under the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century.
The latest report also shows current commitments will increase emissions by 10.6 percent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. This is an improvement over last year’s assessment, which found countries were on a path to increase emissions by 13.7 percent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
Last year’s analysis showed projected emissions would continue to increase beyond 2030. This year's analysis shows that while emissions are no longer increasing after 2030, they are still not demonstrating the rapid downward trend science says is necessary this decade.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report indicated that CO2 emissions needed to be cut 45 percent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. The latest science from the IPCC released earlier this year uses 2019 as a baseline, indicating that greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 43 percent by 2030. This is critical to meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.
“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change. “But the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years.”
UN Climate Change analysed the climate action plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – of 193 Parties to the Paris Agreement, including 24 updated or new NDCs submitted after the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) up until 23 September 2022. Taken together, the plans cover 94.9 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
“At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow last year, all countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their climate plans,” said Stiell. “The fact that only 24 new or updated climate plans were submitted since COP 26 is disappointing. Government decisions and actions must reflect the level of urgency, the gravity of the threats we are facing, and the shortness of the time we have remaining to avoid the devastating consequences of runaway climate change.”
This is UN Climate Change’s second such report, providing a critical update to last year’s inaugural NDC synthesis report. While the overall findings of the report are stark, there are glimmers of hope.
A second UN Climate Change report on long-term low-emission development strategies, also released on Wednesday, looked at countries’ plans to transition to net-zero emissions by or around mid-century. The report indicated that these countries’ greenhouse gas emissions could be roughly 68 percent lower in 2050 than in 2019, if all the long-term strategies are fully implemented on time. The report notes, however, that many net-zero targets remain uncertain and postpone into the future critical action that needs to take place now. Ambitious climate action before 2030 is urgently needed to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) just around the corner, Stiell called on governments to revisit their climate plans and make them stronger in order to close the gap between where emissions are heading and where science indicates they should be this decade.
Stiell is urging national governments to come to COP27 to show how they will put the Paris Agreement to work in their home countries through legislation, policies and programmes, as well as how they will cooperate and provide support for implementation. He is also calling for nations to make progress at COP27 in four priority areas: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance.
“COP27 will be the world's watershed moment on climate action,” said Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP27 President-Designate. “The report from UN Climate Change and before that from the IPCC are a timely reminder for all of us. Raising ambition and urgent implementation is indispensable for addressing the climate crisis. This includes cutting and removing emissions faster and at wider scope of economic sectors, to protect us from more severe adverse climate impacts and devastating loss and damage.”
COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “It is critical that we do everything within our means to keep 1.5C in reach, as we promised in the Glasgow Climate Pact. These reports show that although we have made some progress - and every fraction of a degree counts - much more is needed urgently. We need the major emitters to step up and increase ambition ahead of COP27.”
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 6 to 18 November this year.