The NDCs for developing countries can only be fulfilled with access to additional finance and other support, the report found. PHOTO: The Weather Channel

Global climate plans still off track ahead of COP26, warns UN

Current NDCs will lead to 16% increase in GHG emissions by 2030, says UN report, urges countries to submit new, updated NDCs ahead of COP26  

The United Nations (UN) describes Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as the heart of the 2015 Paris Agreement. But the net-zero race has in some ways overshadowed the importance of these long-term climate action plans that each country must set in order to cut emissions and limit warming to 1.5°C. A new UN report released this month, however, has put the spotlight back on NDCs and highlighted just how effective they can be if implemented successfully.  

The UN’s NDC Synthesis report indicated that while greenhouse gas emissions are reducing over time, the world is still not on track to achieving the 1.5°C target. The report urged nations, especially those who haven’t submitted updated NDCs, to double down on the climate efforts. This report, therefore, is an important indicator of where climate action progress stands ahead of the COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November. 

How the NDCs were assessed

All 191 parties that are part of the Paris Agreement submitted information to provide clarity and understanding of their NDCs. These included 86 updated or new NDCs submitted by 113 parties. According to the report, the updated and new NDCs cover 59% of the parties that are part of the Paris Agreement and account for 49% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.    

Where countries stand

The countries that have updated and strengthened their 2030 emissions targets include Argentina, Canada, the European Union, United Kingdom and United States. According to a new report published by Climate Action Tracker, however, only the UK’s NDC is close to being 1.5°C compliant.  

Among the countries that are yet to submit their NDCs are China, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These countries are collectively responsible for 33% of global greenhouse gases. Even though Australia and Indonesia have submitted updated NDCs, their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets have not changed since what they offered in 2015, according to an assessment released by Climate Analytics and WRI

Brazil and Mexico submitted plans that allow for higher emissions compared to their previous targets, while Russia submitted a target that would actually allow higher emissions than its current “business-as-usual” trajectory. Japan and South Korea are expected to submit new, tougher targets ahead of COP26.

The good news

According to the report, greenhouse gas emissions for the 113 parties that have submitted new or updated NDCs are projected to fall by 12% in 2030 when compared to 2010. This brings hope as the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimated the world will need to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% in 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C or by 25% by 2030 to limit it to 2°C. 

Of the 113 parties, 70 countries have also set carbon neutrality goals with deadlines towards the middle of the century. According to the report, this will translate into even more emission reductions–about 26% by 2030 compared to 2010.

The bad news

When the NDCs of all 191 parties were synthesised, the report estimated a 16% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2010. This is worrying because the IPCC report suggested that a rise of this magnitude, if left unchecked, is likely to push up temperatures by about 2.7°C by the end of this century. 

“The 16% increase is a huge cause of concern. It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, said in a statement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

The struggle for developing countries is real

The report found the NDCs submitted by several developing countries included conditional commitments to cut down on emissions. These, the report stated, could only be fulfilled with access to additional finance and other support. If implemented, these conditional commitments could translate into global emissions peaking by 2030, the report stated. Financial support was also necessary for adaptation measures that have been included in several NDCs, the report stated. 

“This shows just how central the issue of providing support to developing countries really is… The pledge to mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020 was key for enhancing climate action by developing countries. That commitment that was made in the UNFCCC process more than 10 years ago has not yet been fulfilled. It’s time to deliver – COP26 is the place to do so. Developing countries need this support in order to act as ambitiously as possible,” Espinosa said. 

Espinosa reminded countries there was still time to submit their NDCs or update the existing ones, especially ahead of the COP. In order to ensure the COP has the latest information, the UN plans to update its synthesis report to cover all NDCs submitted on or before October 12, 2021. This report will be published on October 25, 2021.   

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