With just five days of the leaders meeting at the UN’s COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, dozens of countries have yet to officially update their commitments to cut emissions, as they are supposed to do so under the rules of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Among the G20 countries, which account for 80% of global emissions, only six countries have officially increased their targets. The report also found that six G20 countries, including the United States, never met their old targets. The others were Canada, Australia, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico.
The report found that new and updated emissions commitments will only reduce an additional 7.5% by 2030, but a 55% reduction is needed to meet the goal of containing 1.5 degree warming. .
According to current country targets, the world will continue to warm to 2.7 degrees, according to UNEP.
“Countries have stretched, but they haven’t stretched enough,” Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, told CNN. “A lot of them kick the box on the road, and we don’t need to see commitments anymore, we really need to see real action.”
The annual “Emissions Gap” report highlights the difference between what countries have promised and what remains to be done. To limit warming to 1.5 degrees, UNEP reports that the world must halve current emissions over the next eight years.
“We’re not nearly where we want to be,” Andersen said. “We want to be optimistic and say that the window is always open, we can always do it – but it closes very quickly. The reality is that we have to get there in the current decade.”
All eyes will be on the rich G20 countries at COP26, especially the world’s biggest emitters of fossil fuels. G20 countries are responsible for around 80% of global emissions, according to Andersen.
“It is clear that everyone has to take responsibility,” said Guterres.
Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose country is hosting COP26, said on Monday that the success of the talks would be “touch and go”.
Some countries have announced other targets, including net zero dates, but these targets are ambiguous and outside of official NDCs. Achieving net zero emissions, where the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere equals what is emitted, is essential for global climate commitments. UNEP reports that these actions, if implemented, could potentially reduce warming by half a degree.
But small countries can also have an impact: Emissions from the rest of the world combined exceed China’s total carbon dioxide production.
“Those in the poorest countries are going to suffer the most, so it is also essential to ensure a certain degree of equity and a degree of global solidarity in financing adaptation,” she said.
While reducing carbon dioxide emissions is essential, the Emissions Gap Report also highlighted the need to control a more insidious culprit: methane.
Methane, an invisible, odorless gas that is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, is the main component of natural gas that people now use to power stoves and heat homes. It is also pumped into the atmosphere in large quantities by landfills, livestock, and the oil and gas industry.
Andersen said that to close the emissions gap, the world needs to reimagine and reinvent all sectors of energy and transportation.
“It means a fundamental overhaul of the sectors,” she said. “The good news is that there are solutions out there at hand. We just need a few nudges and political safeguards that set the tone.”
And while there is still a chance to change the course of the climate crisis, Andersen added that action is needed by 2030. Unless fossil fuel emissions are reduced quickly, extreme weather conditions will become more severe. in addition present in the future of the Earth.
“It’s possible. We can do it, but it won’t happen without real leadership,” Andersen said. “And this is where multilateral agreements matter. It will take leadership from everyone, including the smallest of countries, but especially stable, firm and united leadership from the G20 and other wealthy economies.”