UN report card on Paris goals gives 75 governments a ‘fail’ mark

Climate plans laid out by 75 countries responsible for a third of global emissions “fall far short” of what is needed to meet the goals of the Paris accord on global warming, a finding that must serve as a “wake-up call” for all governments, the United Nations said in its latest report card.

In a stark warning delivered ahead of the international climate summit in November, UN climate change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said the combined efforts were woefully inadequate and appealed to the world’s biggest emitters to “step up” with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction plans this year.

The updated plans from countries including the UK and Australia and the European Union submitted by December demonstrated that “current levels of climate ambition are very far from putting us on a pathway that will meet our Paris Agreement goals”, said Espinosa.

Signatories of the Paris Agreement pledged to limit warming to “well below” 2C, compared to pre-industrial levels, by 2100. They were asked to submit newly ambitious emissions reductions plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, by the end of 2020.

The 75 countries that met this deadline account for around 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If those nations’ new targets were implemented, the UN said, their combined emissions would fall just 0.5 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. That is drastically lower than the 45 per cent fall in global emissions needed to limit warming to 1.5C, or “far short of what is required”, the UN said.

All countries, including those that had already submitted new plans, had to urgently “look at how they can increase their ambition”, said Espinosa.

Just one of the world’s four largest greenhouse gas emitters had submitted its plan in time to be included in the analysis — the EU group of 27 countries. New commitments have yet to be put forward by China, the largest global emitter, the US and India, though the US plan is expected before the climate summit it will host on April 22.

Niklas Höhne, partner at NewClimate Institute, a non-profit group that tracks action on climate change, said more ambitious targets were expected from those three nations. “We have a huge gap, we are totally off target. But I’m hopeful that we see more movement in the course of this year.”

US president Joe Biden has made action on climate a key priority, and moved to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office after former president Donald Trump left the accord. China, meanwhile, pledged last year to be carbon neutral by 2060.

Höhne said the UN analysis should draw attention to those countries that had not raised their targets and simply resubmitted their original plans. Japan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia all delivered plans that failed to improve on their 2015 target. Brazil’s climate plan lacked any goals to cut emissions by 2030. 

Without naming specific nations, Espinosa delivered a rebuke to those countries: “It’s incredible to think that just when nations are facing an emergency that could eventually end human life on this planet . . . many nations are sticking to their business-as-usual approach.”

If the new plans were implemented, the collective emissions from the 75 countries could peak by 2030, the UN said. A final progress report that takes all updated plans into account will be published before the November COP26 summit.

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