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Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising inexorably to put the world on course for a near 9 per cent rise by 2030 from 2010 levels, according to the latest progress report by the UN scientific body that is the world’s leading authority.
While the rise projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is slightly better than the 11 per cent in last year’s assessment, it remains vastly short of the 45 per cent cut needed to limit warming to the 1.5C goal set as part of the Paris Agreement.
“The world is failing to get to grips with the climate crisis” and national pledges were “strikingly misaligned with the science”, UN secretary-general António Guterres said, in response to the analysis showing global climate commitments put emissions on track to rise this decade.
“Inch by inch progress will not do,” Guterres said, calling for a “climate ambition supernova” in every country, city and sector.
Developed countries should aim to hit net zero in 2040, and emerging economies as close as possible to 2050, he said.
The report was produced ahead of the UN COP28 climate summit in Dubai at the end of the month, where countries will be pushed to come to an agreement to limit global warming amid rising geopolitical tensions.
Temperatures have already risen by at least 1.1C, the UN has found.
The 2015 Paris Agreement included a ratchet mechanism under which countries agreed to set progressively more ambitious targets to limit climate change.
But few big emitters have submitted meaningful updates to their nationally determined contributions since the Glasgow UN climate summit in 2021.
The UN analysis of the so-called nationally determined contributions cast a further poor light on the progress by most developed nations. Simon Stiell, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said governments were “taking baby steps to avert the climate crisis”.
The laggards to improve their goals in the past year included the oil and gas producing COP28 host country United Arab Emirates, which said it would cut its emissions by 19 per cent from 2019 levels. However, the expert Climate Action Tracker group has said this remains “insufficient”.
Under the leadership of Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the country submitted a commitment earlier this month, after the cut-off for the UN analysis, to cut emissions by 53 per cent by 2030 compared with 2005.
The UK has not increased the ambition of its target since 2020, and the US has not submitted an update since President Joe Biden’s stronger commitment in 2021.
The UNFCCC’s Stiell set out a wishlist for COP28 to become a “game changer” by getting agreement on the tripling of renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency, as well as financing for a so-called loss and damage fund to aid vulnerable nations.
The fund was a key outcome from last year’s COP27 in Egypt, but countries have clashed repeatedly over how it should be structured, who should pay into it and who should benefit.
The COP28 UAE leadership and the EU’s climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra this week attempted to throw their weight behind a push for contributions to get the fund under way, but no firm commitments have been made so far.
Countries’ longer term targets are on the whole more impressive than their near-term ones, according to the UN.
But Niklas Höhne, founding partner at NewClimate Institute, a non-profit think-tank, said the lack of ambition in near-term targets would make it “impossible” for countries to meet their mid-century targets.
“It’s easier to make a promise for something that is 30 years away compared to making policies to reduce emissions in the next 5 to 10 years,” he said, adding this “inconsistency” was like a family spending its monthly budget in the first five days of the month.
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