Countries’ short-term climate plans are still far off what is needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s target, a new analysis concludes, as the UK admitted there was still a “mountain to climb” before the finale of the Cop26 climate summit.
Boris Johnson is expected to return to Glasgow on Wednesday as countries work towards reaching a meaningful agreement that keeps hopes of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels within reach.
On Tuesday, the research group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) released a global update showing that nations’ plans for how they will slash emissions by the end of this decade would result in 2.4C of heating by 2100.
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Even when pledges made at the Glasgow summit are taken into consideration, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 are expected to be twice as high as what would be needed to meet the 1.5C aspiration outlined in the Paris Agreement, it said.
UK minister and Cop president Alok Sharma said on Tuesday that countries had a “mountain to climb over the next few days” ahead of the summit’s scheduled finish time on Friday.
Mr Sharma also confirmed that the UK presidency will publish the first draft of the cover text for the final agreement from Glasgow overnight.
“It will likely require negotiating teams to consult their leaders and capitals,” he said – a hint that the draft may push countries to go further to keep hopes of limiting global heating to 1.5C within reach.
The CAT analysis adds that, in an optimistic scenario where all short- and long-term climate pledges including net zero goals are fully implemented, temperatures could be kept at 1.8C.
However, there is currently a “1C gap” between countries’ current actions and their long-term climate plans.
“If we look at the difference between policies that are actually being implemented on the ground and what countries are saying they are going to do in the very far future, there is almost a 1C gap,” Dr Matthew Gidden, analysis author and a senior scientific adviser at Climate Analytics, a partner of CAT, told The Independent.
“The 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement lives and dies by how we get to net zero and what we’re seeing right now isn’t enough.”
“Glasgow has a serious credibility gap,” said Dr Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.
“It’s all very well for leaders to claim they have a net zero target, but if they have no plans as to how to get there, and their 2030 targets are as low as so many of them are, then frankly, these net zero targets are just lip service to real climate action.”
The analysis adds that, based on countries’ practical policies alone, temperatures could reach 2.7C by 2100.
India and Nigeria are among countries to set net zero targets at the Cop26 climate summit.
A pair of quick-fire analyses published in the wake of these announcements last week found that, if fully implemented, new pledges announced at Cop26 could keep temperatures at around 1.8 to 1.9C by the end of the century.
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The new analysis concurs with these results, but stresses that there is still a yawning gap between countries’ current climate policies and their far-off net zero targets.
“While the wave of net zero targets appears like remarkable news, we can’t sit back and relax,” said Prof Niklas Hohne, a climate scientist at the NewClimate Institute, another CAT partner organisation.
The new analysis, which studies the climate plans of 40 countries, comes a day after Mr Sharma said that action this decade must be the priority of negotiations taking place at the summit.
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the analysis showed that the UK government, which is hosting Cop26 alongside Italy, “cannot hide from the science”.
“The test of Cop26 has always been what concrete commitments it would deliver by 2030, the decisive decade to keep 1.5C alive,” he said.
“This report is an important reality check to the government’s attempt to greenwash Glasgow.”
Dr Kat Kramer, climate policy lead at Christian Aid, described the findings as a “screaming siren”.
“We are far from where we need to be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she said. “It is imperative that countries recognise the need to end the fossil fuel era.”
A Cop26 spokesperson added: “We know that the window to keep 1.5C alive is closing but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that it is still achievable. As these reports make clear, we’ve seen genuine progress in the first week of Cop26, but we have a lot more to do.
“We need to be serious about both ambition and action this decade, and that is why as Cop26 presidency, we are looking forward to productive negotiations this week to push hard and make further progress for a positive outcome for the planet.”