Countries must do more to combat climate change, says UN

Voluntary pledges by countries to cut carbon emissions by 2030 are not enough to hold temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, says report

New Delhi: The world is not doing enough to keep global warming in check.

Voluntary pledges by many countries to cut carbon emissions by 2030 are not enough to hold the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and the world needs to do much more, said a United Nations (UN) report released on Friday, a month ahead of global climate negotiations in Paris.

But at the same time, the report appreciated that taken together, these pledges could dramatically slow emissions into the atmosphere. It said the voluntary contributions would bring average emissions per capita down by as much as 8% in 2025 and 9% by 2030.

“It can be concluded that greater reductions in the aggregate global emissions than those presented in the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) will be required for the period after 2025 and 2030 to hold the temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels," said the 66-page report.

For the report, the UN analysed the collective impact of 119 INDCs (submitted till 1 October 2015), covering 147 countries and 86% of global emissions in 2010.

Since then, more INDCs have been submitted and submissions are likely to continue. INDCs are going to be the basis of the climate change negotiations at the Conference of Parties, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Paris that starts on 30 November. The summit, which will run until 11 December, will attempt to seal a historic global climate deal.

India submitted its INDC on 2 October, pledging to reduce the emissions intensity by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels, and achieve 40% of its cumulative electric power installed capacity of around 350 gigawatts from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources, mainly renewable power.

The report emphasized that an “unprecedented world-wide effort is underway to combat climate change, building confidence that nations can cost-effectively meet their stated objective of keeping a global temperature rise to under 2°C". But it warned that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required in the period after 2025 and 2030 to hold the temperature rise to below 2°C over pre-industrial levels.

It said INDCs are expected to deliver sizeable emission reductions and slow down emission growth in the coming decade, but will not be sufficient to reverse by 2025 and 2030 the upward trend of global emissions. “The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7°C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary at UNFCCC.

“Fully implemented, these plans together begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions: as a floor, they provide a foundation upon which ever higher ambitions can be built. I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time—the journey to a climate safe-future is underway and the agreement to be inked in Paris can confirm, and catalyse, that transition," she added.

The report said that national contributions can be adjusted upwards over time, especially as mobilization of climate finance and other forms of multilateral cooperation that are catalysed by the new Paris agreement will allow governments to go further and faster, even before 2030.

It also stated that 100 INDCs included an adaptation component, which demonstrates the global imperative of adapting to climate change alongside efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts said the report clearly states that current commitments are not sufficient to meet what the world needs.

“Despite the unprecedented level of effort, this report finds that current commitments are not yet sufficient to meet what the world needs. Countries must accelerate their efforts after the Paris summit in order to stave off climate change. The global climate agreement should include a clear mandate for countries to ramp up their commitments and set a long-term signal to phase out emissions as soon as possible," said Jennifer Morgan, global director (Climate Programme) at World Resources Institute, a research organization which spans over 50 countries.

“With more than 153 countries coming forward with national commitments, we’re now seeing a much higher level of cooperation on climate change. The Paris agreement has not yet been sealed, but is already raising our sights about what’s possible," she added.