Home >Lounge >Features >Climate Change Tracker: The Emissions Gap

Although six months of the year are left, the covid-19 pandemic has ensured that 2020 is basically a write-off, a year of postponements. In terms of climate change mitigation efforts, the biggest blow has been the postponement of the 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 26) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This crucial conference was supposed to be held in Glasgow this November, but will now be held exactly a year later.

This poses a problem because 196 countries were supposed to outline their revised national goals for reducing fossil fuel use at the summit. Under the 2015 Paris accord, countries had to revise their emission goals (NDCs or nationally determined contributions, currently extending till 2030) every five years to limit global heating to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, and preferably keep it under 1.5 degrees Celsius. Current global targets would take it to at least 3 degrees Celsius. The fear is that with no pressing need to do their bit this year, countries will use the pandemic as an excuse to emit more.

Current global targets are not good enough, and countries are struggling to meet even these. A reader of this column pointed me to an article published in Nature Communications at the end of April that lays this out. Taking Stock Of National Climate Policies To Evaluate Implementation Of The Paris Agreement analyses the national policies of the G20 countries, specifically seven economies within the G20. These economies, including India, the EU, US, Brazil, Japan, Russia and China, accounted for 65% of global emissions in 2010 (the G20 accounted for 75%).

According to the analysis, each country surveyed will fall short of its current NDCs. Moreover, unless additional action is taken by these countries, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will actually increase by 2030. There will be a global emissions gap of 22.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalents (GtCO2eq) for the 2-degree Celsius target and 28.2 GtCo2eq for the 1.5- degree Celsius target. Countries need to be kept on their toes, and with the COP 26 postponed, that accountability will be sorely missed.

Follow the Climate Change Tracker with #MintClimateTracker. Click here to listen to the latest episode of the Mint Climate Change Tracker hosted by Bibek Bhattacharya

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