Oct 25, 2021 - Energy & Environment

UN: Nations' official climate plans fall far short of Paris goals

Aerial view of coal being unloaded from a cargo ship at Lianyungang port

Aerial view of coal being unloaded from a cargo ship at Lianyungang port on October 14, 2021 in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province of China. Photo: Wang Jianmin/VCG via Getty Images.

Nations' formal emissions targets submitted under the Paris climate agreement, even if implemented, would fall well short of the deal's benchmarks for holding global warming in check, a new United Nations analysis concludes.

Why it matters: The report comes a week before a major UN climate summit convenes in Glasgow, Scotland that's aimed at pushing the world toward much more aggressive steps to rein in planet-warming emissions.

Threat level: The report analyzed 165 pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), including revised 2030 targets submitted as of mid-October.

  • Overall, the existing plans would bring greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 that are 16% higher than 2010 levels, the UN found.
  • The UN says that such an increase, "unless changed quickly," could bring temperature rise of about 2.7°C (almost 4.9°F) above preindustrial levels by the end of the century.

The big picture: The 2015 Paris deal calls for limiting warming to "well below" 2°C and ideally 1.5°C, but the latter target is fast slipping out of reach.

  • Those are benchmarks for avoiding some of the most significant harms from climate change beyond damage already baked into the cake.
  • "Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilized world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the GHG emissions in the atmosphere," Patricia Espinosa, the top UN climate official, said in a statement alongside the report.

Yes, but: The report analysis of 165 existing and updated NDCs considered only revisions submitted through Oct. 12.

  • A handful have arrived since. More importantly China, by far the world's largest emitter, and India, the third largest, have yet to submit revisions to their existing targets.
  • They could increase their pledges before the summit opens Oct. 31, or during the two-week event.
  • Nonetheless, targets submitted under the Paris framework are non-binding and represent aspirational goals.
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