New Delhi: Countries’ plans to deal with climate change by limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement remain insufficient, as per a United Nations report released on Tuesday (November 14).
A lot more action is needed now to decrease the world’s carbon emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it has warned. The report comes just 15 days before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) is scheduled to take place in Dubai.
NDC synthesis reports
The 2015 Paris Agreement – which India is also signatory to – mandates that each party should prepare, communicate and maintain nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Information on targets, policies and measures to reduce national emissions and adapt to climate change impacts are listed in annual ‘NDC synthesis reports’.
These reports are released by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – which has been adopted by 198 parties including India – which aims to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”. Its secretariat analyses and reviews the latest and available information on climate change, apart from conducting several exercises including maintaining a registry of every country’s NDCs.
In February 2021, it released the first analysis of the member parties’ NDCs, followed by a second last year.
This year, the UN body analysed 168 NDCs of 195 parties signatory to the Paris Agreement, including 20 new or updated NDCs submitted up until September 25, 2023. It projected emission levels resulting from the implementation of the NDCs when compared to emission scenarios assessed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Most parties (95%) provided the information necessary for “clarity, transparency and understanding of their NDCs”, the report found.
Around 80% of the parties also provided information on adaptation strategies.
Most (97%) also provided information on their NDC planning processes and “referred to their implementation plans, communicating information on their institutional arrangements, stakeholder engagement processes and policy instruments, including legislation, strategies, plans and policies”, the report noted.
More than 90% of the parties identified energy supply as a specific priority area in their mitigation options to tackle climate change.
The report noted that coal-fired power generation was the single largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions globally in 2021 (9.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent), and that there were more than 8,000 coal-fired power plants operating in roughly 90 countries providing 2 million jobs.
However, only 9% of parties – which together account for more than 50% of the total global electricity generation from coal in 2021 – listed measures such as replacing coal-fired power plants with less polluting alternatives. Again, only 4% of parties mentioned the need for or measures required for a just transition for communities and workers dependent on coal.
Actions not enough
Similar to last year’s analysis, this year’s report shows that while emissions are no longer increasing after 2030 when compared to 2019 levels, they are still not declining as rapidly as they should.
Per the report, even if the latest NDCs are implemented, they will still increase emissions by about 8.8% when compared to 2010 levels. This, the UN press release said, is a “marginal improvement” over the 2022 assessment, which found that countries were on a path to increase emissions by 10.6% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.
By 2030, emissions are projected to be 2% below 2019 levels, highlighting that the peaking of global emissions will occur within this decade.
In order to achieve the peaking of emissions before 2030, the report says, “the conditional elements of the NDCs need to be implemented, which depends mostly on access to enhanced financial resources, technology transfer and technical cooperation, and capacity-building support; as well as the availability of market-based mechanisms.”
The latest science from the IPCC indicates that greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 43% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
“Today’s report shows that governments combined are taking baby steps to avert the climate crisis. And it shows why governments must make bold strides forward at COP28 in Dubai, to get on track,” said the executive-secretary of UN Climate Change, Simon Stiell.
“This means COP28 must be a clear turning point. Governments must not only agree what stronger climate actions will be taken but also start showing exactly how to deliver them.”
“NDCs remain the cornerstone of our shared vision of achieving the Paris targets, including keeping the target of below 2 degrees and aspiring to limiting [the] increase to below 1.5 degrees,” COP27 president and Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said.
“In Sharm El-Sheikh leaders discussed several initiatives to assist us to reach that goal, as well as assist the Global South in adapting their economies accordingly. We need to keep the momentum going as there is no time to waste or lose focus on the target.”
Also Read: What Is COP and Why Should I Care?
Long-term low-emission development strategies
A second UN Climate Change report on long-term low-emission development strategies, also released on November 14, looked at countries’ plans to transition to net-zero emissions by or around mid-century.
The report, per a press release, indicated that these countries’ greenhouse gas emissions could be roughly 63% lower in 2050 than in 2019, if all the long-term strategies are fully implemented on time.
Current long-term strategies (representing 75 parties to the Paris Agreement) account for 87% of the world’s GDP, 68% of the global population in 2019 and around 77% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, per the report. This is a strong signal that the world is starting to aim for net-zero emissions.
The report also notes, however, that many net-zero targets remain uncertain and postpone into the future critical action that needs to take place immediately.