1st Oct 2023

World off track to meet climate targets, despite Covid-19

  • G20 countries are responsible for about 80 percent of global emissions - of which about 10 percent are attributable to the EU
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Climate change has not been slowed by the pandemic and the world remains off-track to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement climate targets, the UN warned on Thursday (16 September), just weeks ahead of the much-awaited climate change conference in Glasgow (COP26).

CO2 emissions have rapidly recovered, following an unprecedented drop fuelled by last year's coronavirus lockdown measures.

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Greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere remain at record levels, raising the likelihood of surpassing the 1.5-degree threshold advocated by scientists in the next five years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a report.

G20 countries are responsible for about 80 percent of global emissions, of which about 10 percent are attributable to the EU.

Despite the international commitments to reach net-zero emissions by around mid-century, "the emissions gap is as large as ever," the WMO warns.

The emission gap is defined by the UN as the difference between where emissions are heading under the current targets and where science indicates they should be in 2030 to limit global temperatures to below two degrees, or at 1.5 degrees (above pre-industrial levels).

The WMO said that global greenhouse emissions will be only significantly reduced by 2030 if Covid-19 economic recovery boosts strong decarbonisation.

However, G20 countries have mainly put forward measures supporting "a high-carbon status quo of their economies or even fostering new high-carbon investments," the report reads.

"This is a critical year for climate action," said UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, pointing out that the report result is "an alarming appraisal of just how far off course we are".

"Time is running out," he also said, calling on all countries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and enhanced their national contribution plans to reduce global emissions. He added that climate pledges need to be backed up by concrete long-term strategies.

The report comes ahead of November's COP26 in Scotland - when governments are expected to present more ambitious emission-reduction plans for 2030.

The EU, the UK, the US, Argentina, and Canada, among others, have strengthened their 2030 emission reduction targets, while others, such as Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Russia, did not increase their ambitions.

EU's new pledges ahead of COP26

"Current commitments for 2030 will not keep global warming to 1.5 degrees within reach," the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, when she announced that the EU would scale up its share in climate finance to help poorer countries tackle climate change.

The 27-nation bloc has pledged an additional €4bn in climate finance for 2021-2027.

"But we expect the United States and our partners to step up too. Closing the climate finance gap together - the US and the EU - would be a strong signal for global climate leadership," von der Leyen said.

Climate funding will be a key topic in the upcoming UN climate talks, since rich countries have failed to deliver on the longstanding commitment to give $100bn (€85bn) a year in climate financing for developing countries from 2020.

"Closing that gap will increase the chance of success at Glasgow," von der Leyen said, arguing that Europe has delivering on its commitment to international climate finance - contributing with €21.2bn per year.

She also said the EU would double its external funding to protect biodiversity, but fell short of specifying any amount.

COP26 was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but green groups now say that negotiations will potentially exclude many government officials, civil society campaigners and journalists, especially from low-income countries, due to the uneven global distribution of vaccines.

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