Of the nations that pledged to redouble their efforts to combat climate change at last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, only a small fraction have delivered on their pledges. , according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations.
Each of the 193 countries involved in COP26 had drawn up plans to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere. Presented with evidence that their existing plans were insufficient to prevent the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – the point at which scientists believe catastrophic climate change becomes inevitable – the participants pledged to revise them.
The report released Wednesday, which collated these action plans, found that of the 193 participants, only 24 had taken action to increase their emissions reduction efforts.
“At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow [Scotland] last year, all countries agreed to review and strengthen their climate plans,” Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, said in a statement to media. “The fact that only 24 new climate plans or updated have been submitted since COP26 is disappointing. Government decisions and actions must reflect the level of urgency, the severity of the threats we face and the short time we have left to avoid the devastating consequences of runaway climate change. »
COP27 on the horizon
The announcement comes less than two weeks before the start of the next UN climate change conference, COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Cherelle Blazer, senior director of the Sierra Club’s international climate and policy campaign, told VOA that the UN analysis comes as no surprise to activists who track commitments from various countries.
“That’s right, and I’m really happy that before the conference they let people know exactly where we are and the fact that we need to do better, in very clear terms. We have to try to stay on the right track. track and understand exactly what’s at stake,” Blazer said.
Some good news
Although the overall conclusions of the report may be discouraging, there is some evidence that at least limited progress is being made.
While an assessment of current plans by UN Climate Change found that emissions would increase by 13.7% by 2030 and continue to rise thereafter, new commitments have changed the organisation’s analysis. . If countries keep their promises, emissions will only increase by 10.6% by 2030 and begin to decline thereafter, but not at the rate scientists say is necessary.
“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made progress this year,” Stiell said. “But the science is clear, and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. 1.5 degrees Celsius. To keep this goal alive, national governments must strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them over the next eight years.”
The report warns that without significant changes, the planet will go well beyond the 1.5 degree rise, noting that in the next century temperatures could be 2.1 to 2.9 degrees higher.
‘Moment of code red’
Climate activists told VOA they hope the new report will add a sense of urgency to the COP27 discussions.
“The main takeaway is that we’re not winning. We’re not going to meet any of our temperature and emissions targets,” said Seth Laxman, climate activist at Greenpeace USA.
“It’s great that so many countries are creating these long-term low-emission development strategies. … But at the end of the day, these plans mean nothing if they are not implemented fully and on time,” said he declared. “We need real accountability measures that can turn those goals into reality. And we also need the plans to get more ambitious, both in terms of speed and scale.
“We’re in a code red moment,” Laxman said. “It’s important to remember that the more we do now, the more impact it will have. Early emissions reductions mean there will be less work to do in the future. But the longer we delay, the more we we’ll have to compensate.”
For their part, UN officials say they are confident that the representatives gathered for COP27 will understand the urgency of the moment.
“COP27 will be the global watershed for climate action,” said Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Foreign Minister and President-Elect of COP27.
“The UN Climate Change report and before that of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] are a timely reminder to us all. Increasing ambition and urgent implementation are essential to address the climate crisis,” Shoukry said in a statement. “This includes reducing and removing emissions faster and across a wider range of economic sectors, to protect us from more severe adverse climate impacts and devastating loss and damage. .”