New climate pledges not enough: Studies

Updated on Nov 10, 2021 05:41 PM IST

During a press conference to release the updated findings Andersen flagged that most net zero pledges are vague, untransparent and hard to hold to account.

People gather around Little Amal, a 3.5-metre tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee girl, during COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.(Reuters)
People gather around Little Amal, a 3.5-metre tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee girl, during COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.(Reuters)
ByJayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Two different analyses have concluded that the new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) announced at Glasgow climate change conference last week and the statements about raising of ambitions may lead to little concrete outcomes, and global climate is still headed for a catastrophic warming of around 2.4 to 2.7°C over pre-industrial levels.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released an update to their emissions gap report 2021 on Tuesday, considering 33 new mitigation pledges for 2030 (31 in NDCs and 2 in other announcements as of 4 November 2021) made since September.

The total number of mitigation pledges for 2030 considered is now 152, covering 88% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Since the report released on October 26, 25 additional countries have announced net-zero emissions pledges, implying that 76% of global domestic emissions are now covered by net-zero announcements.

When the latest unconditional and conditional NDCs are considered, warming is projected to be limited to 2.7°C (range: 2.2°C–3.1°C) over pre-industrial levels. This means that there is no change in warming impact compared to UNEP’s assessment released on October 26. When the full implementation of all net-zero pledges are considered in addition to the updated unconditional and conditional NDCs, warming is projected to be limited to 2.1°C (range: 1.9°C–2.3°C).

“Great to see countries submit stretched NDCs. But the reality is that the sum total of our #climate efforts thus far is like an elephant giving birth to a mouse. When we gavel #COP26, we need to close the leadership gap,” tweeted Inger Andersen, executive director, UNEP.

During a press conference to release the updated findings Andersen flagged that most net zero pledges are vague, untransparent and hard to hold to account. She highlighted some were for GHG emissions while some only for CO2 emissions. “There is a very large credibility gap. Glasgow was the first real test of Paris Agreement’s ratcheting up mechanism. But the ambition gap is massive and unlikely to be addressed in next few days,” Andersen said.

The unconditional pledges made between the September cut-off date of the Emissions Gap Report 2021 and 4 November 2021 have narrowed the gap with respect to 2°C and 1.5°C by about 0.5 GtCO2e (gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent); if the conditional pledges are also fully implemented the gap has been narrowed by about 1.5 GtCO2e.

“These changes do not affect the conclusion of the Emissions Gap Report 2021 that a significant increase in 2030 mitigation pledge ambition and acceleration of action is required to get the world on a path consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal.

Even considering the recent updated pledges for 2030, annual global GHG emissions would need to be roughly halved by 2030 to become consistent with a 1.5°C pathway,” a UNEP statement said.

“Glasgow has a massive credibility, action and commitment gap as the world is heading to at least 2.4°C of warming, if not more,” the Climate Action Tracker, a scientific analysis organisation also warned at a press conference at COP26 on Tuesday.

With all target pledges, including those made in Glasgow, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will still be around twice as high as necessary for the 1.5°C limit, CAT states, adding that with 2030 pledges alone (without longer term net zero targets) there is likely to be warming of 2.4°C.

The projected warming from current policies – what countries are actually doing – is even higher, at 2.7°C, CAT flagged. In CAT’s best case scenario when all net zero pledges are implemented, warming can be limited to around 1.8°C.

A separate modelling showed one billion people will be at risk of extreme heat stress if global warming causes the world’s temperature to rise by 2°C.

A study by the Met Office, the UK’s national meteorological service, warned that a 2°C rise could lead to a 15-fold increase of a potentially fatal cocktail of heat and humidity across the planet.

A 4°C rise would mean that nearly half of the world’s population could be living in affected areas, according to the research.

COP26 President Alok Sharma told reporters that there’s a “mountain still to climb” in the coming days and time is running out. There’s been some progress, but it’s still not enough.

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