COP26 pledges could keep rise below 2°C: Key studies

Key among the steps that could well move the needle on fighting the climate crisis are the commitments made by India and those confirmed by China, according to Australia-based environment analysis group Climate Resource’s report released on November 3.
The jump in the chances is because of steps by two of the three biggest carbon emitters.(AP file photo. Representative image)
The jump in the chances is because of steps by two of the three biggest carbon emitters.(AP file photo. Representative image)
Updated on Nov 06, 2021 06:14 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The recent pledges to rein in emissions made by countries at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has for the first time given the world a shot at keeping global warming to under 2°C, according to three new analyses that also stress on the need for countries to still strive for the 1.5°C goal.

Key among the steps that could well move the needle on fighting the climate crisis are the commitments made by India and those confirmed by China, according to Australia-based environment analysis group Climate Resource’s report released on November 3.

A second analysis with similar findings was published in the journal Science on November 4 – its authors include researchers from institutions led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Under pledges made at the 2015 Paris Agreement, the chances of limiting temperature change to below 2°C and 1.5°C above the average temperature before the industrial revolution by 2100 were 8% and 0%, respectively.

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Now, there is a 50% chance, according to the Climate Resource paper, and 34% chance, according to the Science report, that warming could be kept under 2°C if the commitments are met.

“For the first time in history, the aggregate effect of the combined pledges by 194 countries might bring the world to below 2°C warming with more than a 50% chance,” said Climate Resource briefing paper.

 

The jump in the chances is because of steps by two of the three biggest carbon emitters. “The major changes that bring projected warming below the significant benchmark of 2°C are China’s new NDC (nationally determined contributions) and India’s new announcement at COP26, both featuring net zero emission targets by 2060 and 2070, respectively,” the paper added.

The projection in the Science paper was different, but still showed a drastic improvement: the chances of limiting global warming to under 2°C is now 34% and, if countries take a more ambitious path after 2030, those probabilities become even more likely, rising to 60% and 11% respectively.

Both assessments use different models for projections, but both take into account the NDCs – which are pencilled in as commitments by countries – and preliminary announcements, such as the one made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

PM Modi said India will become carbon neutral by 2070, the first time the country committed to a net zero emissions goal. He also made four more pledges, including sourcing 50% of energy from renewable resources by 2030, and, by the same year, to reduce total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonne.

Officials part of India’s climate negotiations team at Glasgow – where each side will fine tune their NDCs – told HT on Monday the commitment may be subject to climate financing negotiations and the steps by rich countries, which till now have not met their pledge of providing $100bn to developing nations by 2020.

Modi called out this discrepancy, saying climate financing cannot lag climate action, and demanded that developed nations with historically high emissions make $1 trillion available to developing nations as soon as possible.

A similar projection that the new pledges mean the 2°C goal is now more achievable was made by the International Energy Agency. “COP26 climate pledges mean Glasgow is getting closer to Paris! New IEA analysis shows that fully achieving all net zero pledges to date and the Global Methane Pledge by those who signed it would limit global warming to 1.8 C. A big step forward, but much more needed!” said IEA executive director Fatih Biro in a tweet on November 4.

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The US and EU signed the Global Methane Pledge at the COP26 on Tuesday, aiming to limit methane emissions by 30% compared to 2020 levels. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

The authors of the Climate Resource paper said a warming of 2°C by 2100 will still be catastrophic and countries must work toward limiting the rise to 1.5°C.

“The combined pledges of countries, both the conditional ones, and certainly the unconditional ones, are not yet sufficient to halt warming at around 1.5°C. Using probabilistic projections, the exceedance probability for 1.5°C is still around 90%, meaning wide scale increases of extreme climate events and the demise of the coral reefs, unless the pace of transition to net-zero emissions continues to accelerate rapidly,” the paper said.

“The good news is, in our study we show how some of the most extreme futures can be excluded if current pledges are followed. But these pledges are still not sufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and COP26 still has an important task in front of them. If we’re serious about getting to 1.5 degrees, the pledges need to be further strengthened,” Dr Joeri Rogelj, the co-author of the Science research study and the director of research for the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London said, according to a statement by the university.

Rogelj stressed on the need for commitments to be followed in reality. “When we look at the climate action data on the ground, it doesn’t yet match up with the stated ambition in the pledges,” he said.

The IEA assessment similarly adds: “Governments are making bold promises for future decades, but short-term action is insufficient. What is essential is for governments to turn their pledges into clear and credible policy actions and strategies today. Ambitions count for little if they are not implemented successfully.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Binayak reports on information security, privacy and scientific research in health and environment with explanatory pieces. He also edits the news sections of the newspaper.

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