Photo: United Nations

According to a story the New York Times broke yesterday, 80 countries want to increase their climate pledges ahead of schedule under the Paris climate accord. The United Nations explained that this signals some of them would do so at a summit of world leaders in September. Despite the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement and lack of leadership on climate action, many other nations are still committed to an international commitment to reduce emissions.

Luis Alfonso de Alba, a Mexican diplomat who is currently the United Nations Secretary General’s envoy on climate change wouldn’t state which nations are looking to expand their goals but made clear that this type of commitment is critical if we are to have a shot at curbing the climate crisis–he stated that we need an “exponential increase in ambition.” 

Are any nations on track to meet their Paris goals?

Sadly, not really. According to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis produced by three research organizations, only Morocco and The Gambia are on track to meet a warming limit of 1.5°C as is the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. The world’s top emitting nations (China, the U.S., India, and Russia) are woefully behind in keeping their emissions below a level that wouldn’t be catastrophic for humanity.

What’s the breakdown?

The Paris Agreement, while significant, was a non-binding resolution that allowed nations to create their own targets and means to meet them. It gave nations the option to increase their commitments in the future but the nations whose actions would be most impactful, are not fully committing to a transition to renewable energy. However, despite national commitments, we’re releasing more methane into the atmosphere than ever before and it’s making it exceedingly difficult for nations to meet their Paris targets.

What’s the urgency?

Aside from the fact that scientists have told us we have roughly a decade to act on climate change before we face irreversible consequences, to make matters more urgent other experts are telling us that we must peak our emissions by 2020. As Kelly Levin, an analyst with the World Resources Institute explained, “All of the science suggests that peaking by 2020 is critical. If you miss that, we rely on much steeper reductions in the future.”

Why This Matters: Here at home, our next president will be crucial in the global effort to act on climate. There is no coordinated international effort to fight the climate crisis if the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases doesn’t take drastic action at home–other nations can still make progress but it won’t be enough. If President Trump is reelected in 2020 then our ability to fight climate change will be in more peril than ever and state and local efforts will likely fall short. In 2020 Americans will have to vote like the fate of the planet depends on it, because in many ways it does. We need to ensure that the United States become one of those nations that expands their Paris goals as a member of the UN.

 

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