Stronger climate pledges lower expected global temperature rise to 2.4˚C

Stronger climate change targets pledged by some of the world’s most polluting countries has brought down the level of expected warming to 2.4˚C by the end of the century, researchers have said.

US President Biden recently brought together 40 world leaders in a virtual climate summit following four years of climate scepticism from Donald Trump’s administration. At the summit, Biden announced a new target to cut greenhouse gas pollution in the US by at least half by 2030.

This pledge, combined with others made by the US, EU countries, China and Japan, have brought down the projected end-of-century warming by 0.2°C below previous estimates, 2.4˚C above pre-industrial levels, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has said.

While this is still higher than the 2.0˚C limit that was agreed to be the maximum in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the tracker’s “optimistic scenario” now falls into line with that goal. This scenario assumes full implementation of all net zero targets.

While the number of countries adopting or considering net zero targets has risen to 131 countries, covering 73 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is the updated 2030 Paris Agreement targets, rather than the additional countries, that contribute the most to the drop in projected warming compared with the CAT’s 2.1˚C “optimistic scenario” in its December update.

“It is clear the Paris Agreement is driving change, spurring governments into adopting stronger targets, but there is still some way to go, especially given that most governments don’t yet have policies in place to meet their pledges,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, one of the CAT partner organisations.

“Our warming estimate from current policies is 2.9˚C - still nearly twice what it should be, and governments must urgently step up their action.”

The biggest contributors to the drop in projected warming are the US, the EU27, China and Japan, although China and Japan did not yet formally submit a new 2030 target to the UN.

Canada announced a new target; South Africa has an increased target under public consultation; Argentina has announced a further strengthening of the target it submitted last December, and the UK has announced a stronger 2035 target.

While the leaders of India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all spoke at the US summit, none announced stronger targets.

“The wave towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions is unstoppable. The long-term intentions are good. But only if all governments flip into emergency mode and propose and implement more short-term action, global emissions can still be halved in the next 10 years as required by the Paris Agreement,” said Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute, the second CAT partner.

While the renewable electricity and electric vehicle sectors show much promise, and the technology is there, the development of new technologies for the industry and buildings sectors is too slow, CAT said.

Contrary to the Paris Agreement are the persisting plans of some governments to build new infrastructure such as new coal-fired power plants, increasing uptake of natural gas as a source of electricity and a trend towards larger, less efficient personal vehicles in some countries. 

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