Unless world leaders seriously up their 2030 pledges at the COP26 climate change conference next week, the planet is set for a 2.7°C (4.8°F) rise in global temperatures by the end of the century, according to a new UN report. This would be a disastrous rise in temperature, bringing with it a significant increase in droughts, floods, heatwaves, and the death of coral reefs.
The findings, from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)'s annual Emissions Gap Report 2021, show that current 2030 pledges are nowhere near limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels, the limit set by the Paris Agreement in 2015 that would mitigate some, but not all, impacts of climate change. This echos the findings from think tank Climate Action Tracker last month that not one of the world's largest emitting nations is on track to meet their Paris Agreement goals.
The report argues current pledges would reduce carbon by only about 7.5 percent by 2030. However, to limit warming to 1.5°C, the planet needs to slash emissions by up to 55 percent. To limit warming to 2°C (3.6°F) — a much less desirable target that would see many harsh effects of climate change — emission reductions of 30 percent would still be needed.
In short, current pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions announced before the run-up to COP26 are falling drastically short and time is running out.
“Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said in a statement. “To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°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.”
This warning comes off the back of the latest IPCC report that showed the planet has a 50 percent chance of surpassing 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming within the next 20 years unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
From October 31 to November 12, world leaders will gather for the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow with the aim of accelerating action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. The latest UNEP report is yet another reminder that the world needs to be more ambitious with its emission pledges, especially G20 countries, which represent 80 percent of global emissions. Though 12 G20 members have pledged a net-zero target, they are still vague and it’s uncertain how they will meet these pledges. If robust and fully implemented net-zero targets are agreed and met then Earth could reduce global warming by 0.5°C, bringing the predicted temperature rise down to 2.2°C — which is progress, but still not enough.
"As this report makes clear, if countries deliver on their 2030 NDCs [national climate plans highlighting climate actions] and net-zero commitments which have been announced by the end of September, we will be heading towards average global temperature rises of just above 2°C,” said Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 president. “Complementary analyses suggest that the commitments made in Paris would have capped the rise in temperature to below 4°C.”
“So there has been progress, but not enough,” he said.” That is why we especially need the biggest emitters, the G20 nations, to come forward with stronger commitments to 2030 if we are to keep 1.5°C in reach over this critical decade.”