By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Climate action promised by countries would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9% in this decade – far short of the global goal of cutting emissions by nearly half by 2030, a new analysis shows.
Failing to meet the 2030 emissions target risks pushing the world toward irreversible climate impacts, even if a second goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is met, scientists say.
For the analysis, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy tallied countries’ climate plans – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. The result “highlights the gap in the ambition of NDCs and the trajectory necessary to meet net-zero emissions by 2050,” the report says.
The report says territories such as the United States and European Union pledging net-zero emissions by 2050 are on track to reduce emissions from 2015 levels by only 27% by 2030. Countries like China and India pledging to reach net-zero after 2050 would actually see emissions rise by 10% through this decade.
The net reduction of 9% reflects only what nations aim to deliver, without considering whether those aims are supported by policy or law. In fact, the report finds that few countries are turning their pledges into clear action. Of the 65% of around 100 countries with net-zero or carbon neutrality targets before 2050, only 14 have signed net-zero targets into law.
In 2015, countries under the Paris Agreement envisioned this being a “decade of climate action,” to prevent global warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
The lagging ambition has increasingly caused alarm, leading delegates at last year’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to demand greater vision in 2022. But just four months later, that resolve appears to be slipping.
Soaring energy prices and supply concerns stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may lead the EU and United States to slow the shuttering of coal-fired power, said James Glynn, an author of the report.
But it will likely “accelerate ambition for investment in low carbon energy systems in Europe for the benefit of future energy security, as well as better aligning with the NDC targets,” he said.
The report also said big developing countries like India and China, which in 2018 accounted for 42% of all emissions, “will dominate the uncertainty” in climate progress with their emissions growing faster in coming years than emissions are reduced elsewhere.
“The implications of this crisis for 2030 emissions depend on what we do next,” said Taryn Fransen, a senior fellow at the research non-profit World Resources Institute not involved in the analysis. “Near-term action has yet to catch up with long-term ambitions.”
(This story corrects date in dateline)
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Katy Daigle and Tim Ahmann)