Carbon cut pledges not enough to restrict global warming to 2°C

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According to an analysis by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), the current carbon cut pledges put forward by various governments may be able to keep the warming below 3°C, but they are not enough to cap it at 2°C.

The analysis was released by CAT on the day of the October 1 UN deadline for governments to submit their emission reduction targets, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for 2025 and 2030. CAT estimates that the targets will be able to bring down the warming by 0.4°C to 2.7°C, but they are certainly not enough to achieve the desired levels.

Back in December last year when CAT updated its estimates based on the carbon cut pledges put forward by China, the US and the EU, it anticipated at global warming level of 3.1°C. Though China’s emissions are going to pake in late 2020s, the INDC and related carbon cut policies would result in substantial decline in carbon levels and hence a lower overall global warming.

CAT has also taken into consideration India’s INDC, which are yet to be released. While India is yet to submit its pledge, quite a few of its plants are already out in the public domain and CAT has estimated the warming based on those numbers.

However, the CAT’s current policy projection (which estimates warming from the policies Governments have in place now) would still see a warming of 3.6°C (3.3 to 3.8°C) by 2100. The INDCs would reduce warming by about 0.6 to 1.1°C from that pathway.

The emissions gap is still set to grow rapidly towards 2030, and there is a major risk that if the INDCs are locked in to 2030, without review, the achievement of the 1.5°C goal called for by the most vulnerable countries may be locked out, and achievement of the 2°C goal fundamentally threatened.

“The INDC process has clearly led to progress, but it is clear that in Paris governments must consider formally acknowledging that their first round of climate plans for 2025 and 2030 will not hold warming below 2°C,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

“They need to rapidly review these plans by no later than 2020, and revise commitments for the post 2025 period. Based on the INDCs submitted to date, locking in targets for 2030 could be catastrophic for efforts to limit warming below 2°C, so the agreement had better focus on 2025.”

The CAT has now analysed 19 INDCs with a combined total of around 71 per cent of global emissions, but have found many of them to be inadequate. With India, the total will be 77 per cent of global emissions.

“All big emitters should seriously reconsider improving their INDCs between now and Paris, or soon after. That only two Governments have climate commitments rated sufficient is not ideal, only two months before Paris,” said Professor Kornelis Blok of Ecofys.

“The need to fill the gap between the projected INDC emissions levels in 2025 and the levels necessary to hold warming to below 2°C means significantly more rapid, and costly, action compared to a situation where more ambitious targets for 2025 were adopted and where governments took immediate action now to achieve them,” said Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute.