‘Time is running out’: Researchers warn climate progress has stalled as only one country doing enough to meet 1.5C target

‘The gap between where we want to be and where we are currently is huge,’ scientist tells The Independent

Daisy Dunne
Climate Correspondent
Wednesday 15 September 2021 08:44
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Related video: 5 key takeaways from the IPCC’s landmark climate report

Only one country is currently doing enough to meet the world’s aspiration of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, researchers have warned.

The rest of the planet is making “sobering” progress towards meeting the target agreed by countries under the Paris Agreement, according to new analysis released just weeks before the Cop26 climate summit is due to take place in Glasgow.

The assessment of 37 countries, from the independent research group Climate Action Tracker, says that progress towards keeping hopes of the 1.5C target alive have stalled since May, with Gambia being the only country currently taking sufficient action.

It adds that the UK is the only developed country to have climate plans that are in line with efforts to limit warming to 1.5C. However, it does not yet have the policies in place to make its ambitious targets a reality, the scientists said.

“It’s sobering that in the last few months we’ve seen little movement,” Professor Niklas Hohne, analysis author and founding partner of the NewClimate Institute in Germany, told The Independent.

“The gap between where we want to be and where we are is huge. When considering all of the pledges and targets that are currently on the table, we will barely stabilise greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – while we would have to halve global emissions by 2030 to be in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Gambia is rated highly because it currently accounts for a very small share of global greenhouse gas emissions and yet has still pledged to slash its climate pollution, said Prof Hohne.

“Gambia is not responsible a lot for climate change, but it has still pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions if there is international finance available,” he said.

A flurry of new commitments to slash these emissions were put forward during key climate summits held in the first half of 2021, the researchers said. However, progress has now slowed.

“We’ve moved very little in the last four months,” said Prof Höhne.

The findings come shortly after a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said that the climate crisis is already affecting weather and extremes in every region of the globe – and that urgent action is required to keep hopes of limiting global heating to 1.5C alive.

Countries’ progress towards meeting the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels

The new analysis says that three-quarters of all countries are currently making insufficient progress towards meeting the 1.5C target.

All countries were expected to come forward with new domestic climate plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), this year ahead of Cop26.

However, the analysis finds that a group of countries, which together account for around half of global emissions, have not yet submitted any new plans for how they will cut their emissions. This group includes the world’s top emitter China, as well as India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

In addition, many of the countries that did come forward with new climate plans failed to meaningfully increase their ambition, the analysis said. Such countries include Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Vietnam.

“Those countries have to go back and think about whether that was the right decision,” said Prof Höhne. “We are just months away from Cop26 and time is running out.”

Some countries are “almost” doing enough to be in line with keep global temperatures to 1.5C, he added. These countries include Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and Nepal.

Dr Bill Hare, analysis author and CEO of the global research centre Climate Analytics, added that it would be “impossible” to meet climate goals without more urgent action.

“The IPCC has given the world a ‘code red’ warning on the dangers of climate change reinforcing the urgent need for the world to halve emissions by 2030,” he said.

“An increasing number of people around the world are suffering from ever more severe and frequent impacts of climate change, yet government action continues to lag behind what is needed. While many governments have committed to net zero, without near-term action achieving net zero is virtually impossible.”

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