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UN warns climate pledges are off track and emissions could rise

Global climate pledges are drastically off track and could lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of nearly a fifth by 2030 if countries do not raise their ambitions, a UN analysis of national goals has warned.

The announcement, less than a week ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, was compounded by an admission from wealthy countries that they had failed to deliver a promised $100bn of climate finance by 2020. Meeting that goal, which is a central element of the Paris accord, would be pushed back to 2023 instead.

The flurry of bad news underlines the uphill task that the UK faces as it seeks to make a success of the most important climate summit since Paris six years ago.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, on Monday played down expectations of any breakthrough in Glasgow, telling a group of schoolchildren in Downing Street that it was “touch and go” whether COP26 would be a success.

In sharp contrast to his pronouncement at the UN General Assembly last month that it was “easy being green,” Johnson said of the other world leaders: “I’ve got to get each of them to agree to do something to help the planet . . . something that is difficult for them.” 

According to the UN “report card” released on Monday, plans submitted by the 192 parties to the Paris agreement would result in a rise in global greenhouse gas emissions of about 16 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels.

Such an increase, “unless changed quickly,” could lead to a temperature rise of 2.7C by 2100, according to the UN tally.

“We are nowhere near where science says we should be,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN’s climate change arm. “Parties must urgently redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond the Paris agreement’s goal of well below 2C, ideally 1.5C, by the end of the century.”

Alok Sharma, the former UK government minister appointed COP26 president, has been pressing countries to update their emissions reduction pledges ahead of the summit, something that G20 nations promised in July to do.

However, some countries, notably China and India, have not yet done so, while others, including Brazil, have submitted weaker pledges than their original commitments.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from the 143 parties that submitted new or updated plans would be about 9 per cent lower in 2030 than they were in 2010, the UN report said.

Also on Monday, a separate roadmap commissioned by Sharma found that wealthy countries, who in 2009 made a pledge to deliver $100bn in climate finance by 2020, had probably missed that target. The report did not provide a specific number for 2020 but the COP26 president said it was “unlikely” that it has reached $100bn last year.

That $100bn figure had been a central part of the negotiations leading up to the Paris accord.

Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s environment minister who co-authored the roadmap with Canadian counterpart Jonathan Wilkinson, said: “It’s not right that developed countries didn’t do it in time.” He added: “We will need to do more in the coming years.”

The admission will make the negotiations in Glasgow even more challenging, as developing countries say they need more financial support from rich countries to enact their climate goals.

The roadmap added up rich countries’ most recent climate finance pledges, and projects that these, along with private funding, would reach $117bn by 2025.

Johnson also raised eyebrows by stating that plastic recycling “isn’t the answer” to address climate change. “If people think we can recycle our way out of the problem they will be making a huge mistake.”


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