The global scientific consensus is clear: emissions of gases that warm the planet must be halved by almost half by 2030 if the world is to have a good chance of avoiding the worst climate disasters.
The global political response so far has been disappointing.
New climate targets submitted by countries to the United Nations would reduce emissions by less than 1%, according to the latest tally released Friday by the world body.
The head of the United Nations climate agency, Patricia Espinosa, said figures compiled by her office showed that “current levels of climate ambition are a long way from putting us on the path to achieving our goals. objectives of the Paris Agreement ”.
The numbers prove the reality of the many promises coming from global capitals and corporate boards that executives are taking climate change seriously.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a “red alert”.
The tally is all the more damning as less than half of all countries submit new targets to the United Nations. The Paris climate agreement, intended to limit the increase in global temperatures, had urged them to do so by the end of 2020.
The United States, which has produced more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country in history, is still missing from the ledger. He joined the Paris Agreement last week, following the withdrawal of former President Donald J. Trump. It has yet to submit its 2030 targets and is under pressure from climate advocates to cut emissions by at least 50% from 2005 levels.
Likewise, China, which currently produces the largest share of emissions, has yet to submit new 2030 targets to the United Nations. Its president, Xi Jinping, said in December that China would generate more of its electricity from renewable sources (25%), cultivate more forests (six billion cubic meters) and reduce its carbon intensity by more than 65%. , which means that as the Chinese economy grows, its carbon emissions would increase at a slower rate than before.
Xi said China will be carbon neutral by 2060, which means it will remove global warming carbon emissions from the atmosphere, equal to how much it is still producing at this time – the.
The Biden administration has said it aspires to net zero emissions by 2050, but has yet to detail how it will achieve it.
All eyes are on an international climate summit that the White House is expected to host on April 22. The United States is expected to announce its climate goals for 2030 by then, and China may well make its own announcement.
Diplomacy culminates with the next round of UN climate talks, due to be held in Glasgow in November.
Some of the biggest emitting countries – including Australia, Brazil and Russia – have submitted new plans for 2030 without raising their ambitions. Mexico lowered its climate targets, which the Natural Resources Defense Council described as a signal that “Mexico is effectively withdrawing from its previous leadership on climate and clean energy.
In contrast, 36 countries – including Britain, Chile, Kenya, Nepal and the 27 countries of the European Union – have raised their climate targets.
The Paris Agreement is designed in such a way that the United Nations cannot dictate or enforce a country’s climate goals or so-called nationally determined contributions. Each country is expected to set its own goals, report regularly to the world on its progress, and set new goals every five years. Diplomatic peer pressure aims to persuade each country to be more ambitious.
The ultimate goal is to limit the increase in global temperature to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius from 1990 levels. Any warming beyond that, scientists have said in exhaustive studies, could make it worse. forest fires and droughts, growing food and water insecurity and the inundation of coastal towns and small islands.
The Alliance of Small Island States, a group of countries that are among the most threatened by climate change, released a scathing response to the report on Friday.
“This report confirms the shocking lack of urgency and real action,” Aubrey Webson, Antigua and Barbuda diplomat and president of the alliance, said in a statement. “We are dangerously flirting with the 1.5 degree Celsius warming limit that the world has agreed we must meet.”