A new report on global climate action has found that carbon emissions across the G20 are set to increase by four percent in 2021, throwing the world further off course in the quest to limit global temperature increases. Compiled by an international consortium of 16 think tanks and NGOs, the Climate Transparency Report states that the world’s twenty wealthiest nations contribute three-quarters of global emissions, and that their continued investment in fossil fuels is severely hampering efforts to mitigate climate change.
According to the report, carbon emissions fell by six percent in 2020 as a result of the economic shutdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, of the $1.8 trillion that has been set aside for recovery spending, just $300 billion is expected to be invested in green projects – the same amount that G20 nations spent on subsidizing fossil fuels from January 2020 to August 2021.
Countries such as China, India, and Argentina are on course to exceed their 2019 emissions this year, with the bulk of this increase being driven by a spike in coal use. Across the G20, coal consumption is predicted to rise by five percent in 2021, with China accounting for 61 percent of this use. The report also found that gas use has intensified by 12 percent in the period between 2015 and 2020.
In accordance with the Paris Agreement of 2015, every country is expected to submit a plan for reducing its emissions – known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – with the collective goal of preventing a global temperature increase of more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. However, the report authors state that, at present, “the UK is the only G20 member with a domestic target that aligns with a 1.5°C modelled domestic pathway.”
Analyzing the NDCs submitted so far by all G20 nations, the researchers warn that even if all these plans were implemented successfully, the world would still be on course for a temperature rise of 2.4 °C by 2100.
“G20 governments need to come to the table with more ambitious national emission reductions targets,” said Kim Coetzee from Climate Analytics, who coordinated the overall analysis. “The numbers in this report confirm we can’t move the dial without them – they know it, we know it – the ball is firmly in their court ahead of COP26,” a key UN climate change conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, later this month.
While the overall outlook presented in the report is grim, the authors do also highlight some positive trends. For example, the share of the G20’s Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) provided by renewables has increased from nine percent to 12 percent since 2019. Within the power sector, meanwhile, renewables increased by 20 percent between 2015 and 2020, and are expected to contribute 29.5 percent of the power mix this year.
However, the report makes no bones about the bottom line, which is that the world has a remaining carbon budget of 400 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide if there is to be any chance of limiting to a 1.5 °C temperature rise. That equates to about ten more years of emissions at 2020 levels, and the onus is very much on wealthy nations to lead the way in reducing the use of fossil fuels.