By Mathew Carr
Dec. 30, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021 — LONDON: A mere eight countries have bothered to submit their second “pledges” under the Paris climate deal on time so far, even though the global warming crisis is worsening and business is betting real money that governments will get their act together.
While it’s true there have been about 180 updates to the so-called “nationally determined contributions” the past four years, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change website, there is little evidence that countries have so far boosted ambition anywhere near the required amount.
Increased ambition was to be submitted by Dec. 31 at the latest. See this:
People with experience overseeing the UNFCCC have been some of the most acute critics of the multilateral process recently. See this:
This chart from the UN Emissions Gap report published earlier this month shows just how troubling the situation is (Yet most countries are behaving like incremental changes to NDCs are good enough.) :
The chart shows emissions are likely to be more than 50 billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2030 even if all the conditions in the NDCs are met — that’s more than double the level needed to keep temperatures from rising 1.5C (the preferred target under the 2015 Paris climate deal).
To be sure, countries have been promising tighter climate policies and markets are adjusting away from fossil fuels as investors deliberately steer clear of exposure to climate risks — both physical and financial.
China, the biggest emitter and world’s most populous nation, hasn’t updated its 2016 NDC but it has signaled more ambition before 2030 and it surprisingly said for the first time in September it plans to reach net zero emissions by 2060.
The U.S., most responsible for the climate crisis and with only 4% of global population, has shifted out of the Paris deal, though President Elect Joe Biden said the country will go back in next month and he’s promised strong climate measures domestically and internationally.
I predict history will treat the USA’s lack of respect to the UN very harshly indeed. It’s repeatedly promised to abide by multilateral efforts on climate action and repeatedly revoked those promises.
The climate problem is global because any emission of a heat-trapping gas anywhere remains in the atmosphere and warms the whole world.
The EU this year tightened its target to a 55% emissions cut by 2030 versus 1990 emissions (from 40%), but it is still about 20 points weaker than where it should be, given its historical responsibility for the problem and the need for climate finance for developing nations, according to well-placed UN sources.
Consumption emissions need to be accounted for too. Much of the greenhouse gas stemming from China, for instance, relates to goods bought and used by people in Europe and North America.
The world has dilly dallied on climate protection for 30 years while saying it’s doing something about it. Now, countries need to cut all their emissions in a similar period, and then some. Right now, that hardly seems likely.
See nations celebrate Paris climate deal back in 2015, here:
The Paris agreement isn’t legally binding unless countries make it so and nor are NDCs, unless they are underpinned by new laws. There are trillions of euros waiting to invest in cleantech, but so far the risks are too high because fossil fuels remain largely unfettered across most of the world, so there’s not enough incentive to shift.
Indeed, most nations still subsidize coal, oil and/or natural gas, while making out that emissions will drop rapidly from about now. It’s just not credible.
(Updates with context on biggest emitters, adds to be sure, updates Saturday with additional screenshot)