Greenhouse gas levels going ‘in the wrong direction’, UN report card shows

Climate change updates

The world’s climate pledges are far off track from meeting the goals of the Paris climate accord, according to a new UN report card that tallies up national climate goals, as global emissions head in the “wrong direction”.

World greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise 16 per cent by 2030 compared with 2010, based on all the existing climate pledges that have been formally submitted by the 191 parties to the Paris accord.

That is the opposite of the cuts required to meet the 2015 Paris climate pact, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2C, ideally 1.5C.

Patricia Espinosa, UN climate chief, called the findings “worrying” and “sobering”, and urged countries to come forward with stronger climate targets ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

“It is not enough, what we have on the table,” she said at a press conference. “I certainly hope that, from now until the time of COP, we will see some new NDCs [nationally determined contributions] come up.”

Espinosa added: “Overall greenhouse gas emission numbers are moving in the wrong direction — instead of a necessary decline in emission, the report points to a considerable increase.”

The existing pledges put the world on track for around 2.7C of warming by the end of the century, blowing past the targets of the Paris accord.

As the Glasgow summit approaches, the UK host is under pressure to persuade countries to improve their goals and ensure the technical negotiations around the rule book for the Paris accord produce an agreement.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson and UN secretary-general António Guterres are gathering about 40 heads of state on Monday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, for closed-door talks about climate goals.

The UN report also came on the same day that President Joe Biden was convening a virtual meeting of international leaders in the Major Economies Forum, a climate-focused body started by then-president Barack Obama, to urge major emitters to lay out more ambitious cuts and to help finance efforts by less wealthy countries.

One major point of contention is that rich countries have failed to deliver on a promise to channel $100bn in climate aid to developing countries by 2020.

New figures released on Friday by the OECD show that rich countries provided $79.6bn in climate-related funding in 2019, still short of the goal.

The Paris agreement requires countries to come up with new climate pledges, NDCs, every five years and a new round was due at the end of 2020.

Only 113 countries, out of 191 that signed the Paris pact, have submitted new or updated targets so far. For those 113 countries, their new pledges add up to a 12 per cent decline in emissions by 2030, compared with 2010 levels.

Several big emitters including China, Japan and South Korea have not yet sent in new targets to the UN, even though they have informally announced new goals.

And some countries that did submit new targets actually watered them down, including Brazil and Mexico, which set new emissions goals that were higher than their old targets.

“This needs to be a wake-up call for Boris Johnson to use every diplomatic sinew to ensure Glasgow doesn’t fail,” said Mohamed Adow, head of Power Shift Africa, a think-tank in Nairobi. “Despite national leaders claiming they care about the climate crisis, their actions suggest otherwise.”

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Greenhouse gas levels going ‘in the wrong direction’, UN report card shows

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