The world is on a “catastrophic pathway” to 2.7° of heating by the end of the century unless wealthy countries pull their weight, UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned.
Such a scenario would be almost double the 1.5° threshold set at the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Guterres was commenting after the UN’s climate agency (UNFCCC) published an update on national climate action plans – officially known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – submitted by the 191 countries which signed Agreement.
The report indicates that while there is a clear trend that greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced over time, nations must urgently redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent disastrous global heating in the future.
The document includes updates to the NDCs of 113 countries that represent around 49% of global emissions, including the nations of the European Union and the US.
Those countries overall expect their greenhouse gas emissions to decrease by 12% in 2030 compared to 2010.
While the report acknowledges this as an “important step”, Guterres warned: “We need a 45% cut in emissions by 2030, to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century…It is clear that everyone must assume their responsibilities.”
70 countries indicated their embrace of carbon neutrality goals by around the middle of the century.
The UN report noted that, if this is realised, it could lead to even greater emissions reductions, of about 26% by 2030, compared to 2010.
However, with national plans staying the way they are right now for all 191 countries, average global emissions in 2030 compared to 2010, instead of decreasing, will increase by around 16%, it was warned.
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings, that would mean that unless climate action is taken immediately, it may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7°, by the end of this century.
Continuing, Guterres said: “The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a code red for humanity. But it also made clear that it is not too late to meet the Paris Agreement 1.5° target.
“We have the tools to achieve this target. But we are rapidly running out of time.”
The UN Secretary General highlighted energy powered by coal as a particular challenge, adding: “If all planned coal power plants become operational, we will not only be clearly above 1.5° – we will be well above 2°. The Paris targets would go up in smoke”.
Guterres urged the creation of “coalitions of solidarity” between countries that still depend heavily on coal, and countries that have the financial and technical resources to support transitions to cleaner energy sources.
Without pledges and financial commitments from industrialised nations to make this happen, “there is a high risk of failure of COP26”, Guterres warned, referring to the pivotal UN Climate summit in Glasgow in six weeks’ time.
“G20 nations account for 80% of global emissions. Their leadership is needed more than ever. The decisions they take now will determine whether the promise made at Paris is kept or broken,” he warned.
There was some good news also, however, with the quality of information presented in new and updated plans found to be improving in relation to both mitigation and adaptation.
Such plans also tend to be aligned with broader long-term, low-emission development goals, the achievement of carbon neutrality, and other international frameworks.
The UN chief was clear that by COP26, all nations should submit more ambitious plans that help to place the world on a 1.5-degree pathway.
“We also need developed nations to finally deliver on the US$100 billion commitment promised over a decade ago in support to developing countries.
“The Climate Finance report published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that this goal has not been reached either.”
Concluding, Guterres said the fight against climate change will only succeed if everyone comes together to promote more ambition, more cooperation and more credibility.
“No more ignoring science. No more ignoring the demands of people everywhere. It is time for leaders to stand and deliver, or people in all countries will pay a tragic price,” he said.