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UN Climate Change has published the Initial NDC Synthesis Report, which evaluated information from 75 parties to the Paris agreement representing 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The results: “governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Experts say it’s time to stop sugar-coating incremental progress and start taking immediate action to achieve long-term climate goals.
Why This Matters: Signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement have slow-walked meaningful emissions reductions and now the workload may be more than can be managed with such limited time. “2021 is a make or break year to confront the global climate emergency. The science is clear, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, we must cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels,” states the report. But current estimates say that if nations don’t make immediate changes, we’re on track to cut only 1% in that timeframe.
Among the 64 nations that succeeded in reducing their emissions from 2016 to 2019, the report states that the cuts were only “a tenth of what would be needed at the global level to meet the Paris climate goals.”
What’s worse: the world may have just missed a huge opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. A report released Tuesday from the International Energy Agency found that global carbon pollution had returned to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2020. But many nations didn’t take advantage of the lowered emissions to get a head start on net-zero goals.
“Now is the time. The global coalition committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 is growing, across governments, businesses, investors, cities, regions and civil society. COVID-19 recovery plans offer the opportunity to build back greener and cleaner. Decision makers must walk the talk. Long-term commitments must be matched by immediate actions to launch the decade of transformation that people and planet so desperately need,“ said Guterres.
Experts say that this will be the defining moment in curbing the climate crisis. With only growing urgency to meet crucial climate goals, much of the work falls on major emitters like the U.S. and China.
“The overall level of ambition exhibited by major emitters in this first snapshot is very low,” said COP25 President Carolina Schmidt. Currently, the U.S. doesn’t have an official climate commitment. Following former President Trump’s exit from the agreement, the original U.S. NDC was scrapped, and the previous Obama-era commitment is now outdated.
But all hope is not lost. President Biden is set to host a climate summit this April on Earth Day where his climate envoy John Kerry has promised, “to prepare a new U.S. nationally determined contribution that meets the urgency of the challenge,” and that a new NDC would be announced as soon as possible.
Special Presidential Envoy on Climate (or “SPEC”) Kerry is engaging with key nations this week in the run-up to the Global Summit in two weeks. In India yesterday he met with Prime Minister Narenda Modi, who reaffirmed his government’s commitment to its Paris pledges, including increasing its non-fossil fuel power capacity to 40% and substantially boosting forest cover to reduce CO2. Kerry visits Bangladesh today.
Why This Matters: Kerry is using these visits to try to elicit elevated commitments from other major emitters — China and India.
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer While scientists have long agreed that human activity was the biggest driver of climate change, there hasn’t yet been evidence from direct observation (the gold standard of scientific research) until now. NASA has completed the first study of its kind, which has calculated the recent causes of climate change […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Both Kyoto, Japan, and Washington D.C. are known for their cherry blossom seasons in the first few weeks of warming spring weather. This year, cherry blossom season came early in both of these cities. In Kyoto, the blooms peaked last Friday, the earliest in more than 1,200 years of […]
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