NEW DELHI: New and updated climate commitments fall “far short” of what is needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals, leaving the world on track for a global average temperature rise of at least 2.7 degree celsius this century compared to pre-industrial level (1850-1900), said the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) report, released on Tuesday. The report noted that the “vague” ‘net-zero’ promises are not enough to save the planet from catastrophic heating.
The report – Emission Gap Report 2021: The Heat Is On – underlined that the countries’ updated climate action pledges, called nationally determined contributions (NDCs), would take an additional 7.5% off predicted annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, compared to the previous round of commitments.
But this is not enough as there is a need to reduce 30% to stay on the least-cost pathway for 2 degree C and 55% for 1.5 degrees C. Calculation shows that annual GHG emissions are currently 60 GtCO2e (Giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent).
“Less than one week before COP26 in Glasgow, we are still on track for a climate catastrophe,” said UN secretary general Antonio Guterres while reacting to the report’s findings.
The report noted that though G20 countries as a group are not on track to achieve either their original or new 2030 pledges, 10 G20 members including India are likely to achieve their original unconditional NDC targets under current policies. Besides India, the list of 10 include Argentina, China, EU27, Japan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the UK.
“Among them, three members (India, Russia and Turkey) are projected to reduce their emissions to levels at least 15% lower than their previous unconditional NDC emissions target levels under current policies, indicating that these countries have significant room for raising their NDC ambition,” said the report.
Released ahead of the 26th session of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the report, however, finds that net-zero pledges could make a big difference as it has potential to shave an extra 0.5 degree C off global warming, bringing the predicted temperature rise down to 2.2 degree C.
“If fully implemented, these pledges could bring the predicted global temperature rise to 2.2 degree C, providing hope that further action could still head off the most-catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, net-zero pledges are still vague, incomplete in many cases, and inconsistent with most 2030 NDCs,” said the report.
“To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP.
On the decline in emissions during Covid-19 economic slowdown, the report said, “The Covid-19 pandemic led to a drop in global CO2 emissions of 5.4% in 2020. However, CO2 and non-CO2 emissions in 2021 are expected to rise again to a level only slightly lower than the record high in 2019.”
It at the same time expressed its concerns that the world has largely missed the opportunity to use Covid-19 economic recovery plan for climate action, saying only around 20% of total recovery investments up to May 2021 are likely to reduce GHG emissions.
This year the UNEP report also focuses on methane and carbon market mechanisms, saying reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors can contribute to closing the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term.
Methane emissions are the second largest contributor to global warming. The gas has a global warming potential over 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon; it also has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – only twelve years, compared to up to hundreds for CO2 – so cuts to methane will limit temperature increase faster than cuts to carbon dioxide.
On carbon markets, the report said that such markets have the potential to reduce costs and thereby encourage more ambitious reduction pledges, but only if rules are clearly defined, are designed to ensure that transactions reflect actual reductions in emissions, and are supported by arrangements to track progress and provide transparency.
“Revenues earned through these markets could fund mitigation and adaptation solutions domestically and in vulnerable nations where the burdens of climate change are greatest,” it said.

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