Analyses find Paris target out of reach under current pledges

Analyses find Paris target out of reach under current pledges
© AP-Scott Heppell

National emissions-reduction pledges would not meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, according to two analyses released Tuesday. 

The reports, released by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) say that under the current commitments, the earth would still warm to more than 2 degrees Celsius, well beyond the target of 1.5 degrees or lower.

Continued coal and gas proliferation are the primary drivers of the warming scenario outlined by the first report, from CAT, an independent group. 

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To meet the 1.5-degree goal, CAT projected all countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development must phase out coal by 2030, with the rest of the world following by 2040. However, despite a planned coal phaseout agreement announced by several countries at the COP26 climate summit, CAT projected that current national plans for coal use would result in a 2.9 degree increase in global warming.

The report also points to increased use of natural gas, which it calls “not Paris Agreement compatible.”

Since the Paris Agreement, carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas have increased 9 percent, even as emissions from coal and oil have fallen, according to CAT. Averting catastrophic warming, the report states, would require natural gas to peak in this decade with a phaseout to follow. However, a number of countries, such as Vietnam, are eyeing it as a transitional stage between coal and renewable energy.

Other countries are expanding their natural gas infrastructure. For example, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been completed and will carrying natural gas from Russia to the European Union.

“If governments are serious about the Paris Agreement’s temperature limit and their own net-zero goals, they need to translate those long-term goals into net-zero aligned ambitious 2030 targets and implement the necessary policies today,” CAT said in a statement. “Developed countries will also significantly increase the climate finance available to support the transition. Until this happens, there is no cause for celebration.”

In a separate preliminary analysis, UNEP projected that meeting both every national short-term and long-term pledge would still fall short of the 1.5-degree goal.

Meeting all of the long-term net-zero goals would have an even chance of restricting warming to 1.8 degrees, while plans for this decade would lead to some 2.5 degrees of warming, according to UNEP’s update of its Emissions Gap Report.

“As noted in the Emissions Gap Report 2021, given the lack of transparency of net-zero pledges, the absence of a reporting and verification system and the fact that few 2030 pledges put countries on a clear path to net zero emissions, it remains uncertain if net zero pledges will be achievable,” UNEP added.

The reports come in the second week of COP26, with the official decision text of the summit set to be released by the end of the week. Despite pledges like a U.S.-joined pact to end financing of fossil fuels abroad, advocates have blasted preliminary text for making no mention of fossil fuels.