Carbon-cutting pledges submitted by nations ahead of the COP26 climate conference fall far short of what is needed to stop disastrous climate change, the UN warned today.
Current climate plans put the world on course for an average rise in temperature of 2.7C by the end of the century, an outcome which puts the world at high risk of breaching crucial climate ‘tipping points’ that would trigger dramatic and unstoppable changes to the planet.
“I think the science is quite clear now. Unless something really dramatic happens over the next three or four years 1.5C will be out of reach,” said Anne Olhoff, one of the report’s lead authors.
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Under the Paris Agreement nations must return to the table every five years with new and improved climate plans, with the aim of setting the Earth on track for less than two degrees warming by the end of the century.
COP26 marks the first of these five-yearly cycles. But updated promises from nations submitted ahead of the summit only shave an additional 7.5 per cent off predicted greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, well short of the 55 per cent cut needed for a 1.5C pathway.
In fact, less than half of the climate plans submitted ahead of COP26 are genuinely more ambitious than the first round submitted in 2015 or 2016, the UN found.
She argued nations should submit new plans “continuously” over the coming years in an urgent effort to close the emissions gap. It will be the UK’s task, as hosts of COP26, to convince countries to agree to such an ask at the Glasgow talks.
Too many nations are making long-term net zero goals without drawing up plans to slash emissions in the short term (Photo: Wang Zheng/VCG via Getty Images)
Scientists warn global emissions must halve by the end of the decade and reach net zero by 2050 to keep warming within 1.5C, the threshold that would save Arctic ice, low-lying islands and coral reefs from destruction.
A flurry nations have come forward with mid-century net zero targets in recent months, which if fulfilled could bring warming down to 2.2C, the UN said.
But too many countries are making net zero promises while planning to continue emitting in the short term, the UN warned.
China, the world’s largest emitter, has said its emissions will not peak until 2030, while Brazil’s climate plan allows for emissions to rise over the next five years, according to analysis by Climate Action Tracker. Both nations say they will reach net zero emissions by mid-century.
“Net zero emission pledges are an extremely positive development, said Ms Olhoff. “But to be realistic, they need to be backed up and reflected in shorter term commitments, including for 2030.”
She said the task ahead is to translate “these fluffy mid-century pledges into actual time plans and milestones for action.”