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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The sprint to secure more stringent emissions reduction commitments ahead of the COP26 summit has petered out well short of the finish line, a new United Nations report out this morning concludes.

Driving the news: The "Emissions Gap" report offers a clear comparison between where emissions need to be to reach the Paris Agreement's goals, and where they actually are. It takes new and preexisting emissions pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), into consideration.

  • It presents a discouraging picture, as countries' recent pledges that were made through Sept. 30 would only shave off another 7.5% from predicted emissions in 2030, compared to previous commitments.

Why it matters: One of the main goals of COP26 is to keep both of the Paris climate agreement's temperature targets viable, yet if emissions remain on their current trajectories, the more ambitious 1.5-degree target would quickly be surpassed.

  • Compared to the 7.5% cut that the new plans will yield, the report says, meeting the 1.5°C target would require that 2030 emissions be cut by at least 55%.
  • To hit the agreement's 2°C target on a "least cost pathway," a reduction of 30% by 2030 is needed.
  • "As world leaders prepare for COP26, this report is another thundering wake-up call," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "How many do we need?"

By the numbers: The report says the surge in net-zero commitments, if actually realized, could help lower global warming further, possibly by another 0.5°C, down to 2.2°C (4°F) above preindustrial levels.

  • But it criticizes such targets are "vague" and out of step with countries' official emissions reduction plans through 2030.
  • The report finds the world has just eight years to shave off an additional 28 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from annual emissions, above what has already been committed.
  • This amounts to nearly cutting annual emissions in half once all greenhouse gases are factored in, the UN states.

Threat level: The new analysis is part of a triple whammy of UN assessments that show countries' emissions would still put us on course for some of the most dangerous impacts of global warming. They also add even more urgency to the Glasgow talks.

A separate UN report released Monday analyzed 165 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.
  • Both reports agree that greenhouse gas emissions are on track to warm the planet by at least 2.7°C (nearly 4.9°F) by 2100.
  • Another UN report Monday found that carbon dioxide levels in the air hit a record high in 2020, and are climbing quickly this year.

🎧 Go deeper: Global leaders prepare for the climate summit in Glasgow

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

U.S. fuel economy hits record high but falls short of policymakers' hopes

Data: EPA; Chart: Axios Visuals

New EPA data on U.S. vehicle fuel economy paints a mixed picture, showing record average efficiency in model year 2020 that's nonetheless far short of what policymakers hope to see ahead.

Driving the news: The annual report shows that average overall fuel economy for cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in the U.S. reached 25.4 miles per gallon (mpg) in model year 2020 in real-world conditions, a 0.5 mpg increase over 2019.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The murky future of Biden's climate agenda in the Senate

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

House Democrats passed their $1.75 trillion social spending and climate package last week, but what happens next is hazy.

Why it matters: The bill, if it makes the finish line, would be by far the most sweeping U.S. climate package ever enacted.

Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal court in Missouri has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities in 10 states.

Why it matters: Monday's decision is the first victory for opponents of the rule, which requires health care workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The case is one of four lawsuits challenging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) rule and argues that the mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages.