The projection by Climate Action Tracker (CAT) that global heating would soar to 2.4C, based on analysis of countries’ 2030 greenhouse gas emissions targets, caused widespread dismay at the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow.
Optimistic estimates published last week that temperatures could be held to 1.8C were known to be based on untested assumptions about long-term promises, and many countries and activists treated them warily as a result, but the “reality check” from the CAT analysis of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for the next decade came as a shock nonetheless.
Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a tiny archipelago in the Pacific that will face inundation at temperatures above 1.5C, said the findings underlined how vital it was for countries to revise their NDCs to take much stronger action this decade. “The world is heading for at least 2.4C based on 2030 NDCs,” said Stege. “2030 is a cliff edge, certainly for my county, and really for the world.”
Scientists have made clear that unless emissions can be reduced by about 45% deur 2030, die target of holding global heating to 1.5C will be out of reach.
As current NDCs are so inadequate, developing countries at the talks are pushing hard for countries to be forced to revise them as soon as possible – next year, according to many. Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, die 1992 parent treaty to the Paris accord, a Cop (conference of the parties) takes place every year. But under the Paris agreement, countries only have to revise their NDCs every five years.
For the High Ambition Coalition, made up of developed and developing countries including the US, the EU, the Marshall Islands and many of the other countries most at risk from climate breakdown, waiting five years for a revision is too long. The coalition put out a statement – not yet signed by all members, but approved by the US and more than 30 others – calling for countries to have to update their NDCs every year if they were not aligned with the 1.5C goal.
Frans Timmermans, the EU’s vice-president, gesê: “Before we leave this conference, we need to make sure that we take decisions that put us on track to meeting our [1.5C] goal, and this needs to be done within a year, because time is running out.”
Other countries and groups, including the Climate Vulnerable Forum, made up of countries most at risk from climate breakdown, are making a similar call. Green campaigners have also joined the push. Egter, there is disagreement over exactly how any such “ratchet” mechanism would work, how often countries should be forced back to revise their NDCs, and whether some countries that had produced revisions already should be exempt, even if those revisions were weak.
One Cop expert told the Guardian: “There is a real danger that whatever form of words is agreed is not strong enough to force countries to make real updates on the urgent timetable needed.”
The UK, as president of the Cop, is set to produce a draft text in the early hours of Wednesday morning that will address this issue, but any form of words will be subject to intense scrutiny and potential change by all parties.
Alok Sharma, the UK cabinet minister who is Cop president, gewaarsku: '[The draft] is likely to require negotiating teams to consult with their capitals. We hope they do so expeditiously.”
What is certain is that this issue will dominate the final days of Cop26. Michael Jacobs, professor of political economy at the University of Sheffield, who attended Cops as climate adviser to Gordon Brown, gesê: “With countries’ commitments for 2030 adding up to a likely 2.4C, not 1.5C, it seems inevitable that there will be increasing demands for the Cop to agree some mechanism, to strengthen NDCS before the next scheduled moment of 2025. 2025 would surely be too late for 1.5C to be kept alive. It’s action this decade that’s needed, not 2050.”
Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, gesê: “With Glasgow commitments for 2030 so far off from where we need to be, the British presidency must not allow the world to shrug its shoulders and wait till 2025 to return to this yawning gap in ambition. It would be a terrible betrayal of vulnerable countries and future generations in every country of the world.”