Sep 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Carbon math put G20 leaders in the hot seat

Illustration of a globe with a magnifying glass.
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The most ambitious Paris temperature target could nearly be met if only the Group of 20 largest economies were to slash emissions by 2030, on the way to net-zero by 2050, a new analysis finds.

Why it matters: Ahead of the November UN Climate Summit, pressure is mounting on G20 leaders to crack down further on emissions in order to stave off some of the worst ravages of global warming.

Details: The report, from the World Resources Institute and Climate Analytics, finds that assuming current emissions pledges, plus net-zero commitments, are met, the world is on course to seeing 2.4°C (4.32°F) of warming compared to preindustrial levels by 2100.

  • New pledges not yet formalized would get the world down to 2.1°C (3.78°F) of warming.
  • The Paris target is 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels by 2100.

Threat level: If major progress is not made to cut emissions this decade, countries would have to curtail them so significantly between 2030 and 2050 that it would be nearly impossible to do in practice.

Yes, but: "Targets" and emissions "pledges" are not the same as policy, and the G20 countries are coming under added pressure to translate the former into the latter.

Of note: The report finds that many G20 countries have not yet announced accelerated emissions reductions. Some have presented marginally more aggressive cuts compared to earlier plans or weakened their prior commitments.

  • Some have not formally agreed to net-zero emissions targets at all.

What they’re saying: “We are never going to address the climate crisis if G20 countries don't step up to the plate,” said Taryn Fransen, senior fellow at WRI, in a statement.

  • She added that the lack of aggressive climate plans from several major economies “should be setting off alarm bells in capitals across the globe.”
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