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World way off track to meet Paris climate goals, says UN report

Attracta Mooney in London

THE world is way off track to tackle climate change and remains headed for a temperature rise of up to 2.6C and must take urgent action, the first comprehensive UN stocktake of global efforts to limit warming concludes.

The UN report on progress by countries that pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement found that there remained a vast gap between actions planned and what needed to be done.

Despite almost 200 countries promising to set out plans for net zero emissions, many setting targets by 2050, the report said the world was “not on track”.

Under the Paris accord, it would require action to limit warming to well below 2C and ideally to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. The Earth’s temperature is at least 1.1C higher already, and emissions continue to rise.

The findings will pile pressure on government leaders when they meet in Dubai later this year for COP28, the UN climate summit, and comes at a time of increased geopolitical tension over efforts to halt global warming.

Major economies have clashed repeatedly this year over how to tackle climate change, with Saudi Arabia among the main blocks to efforts to move away from fossil fuels.

China was also accused of using “wrecking ball” tactics during negotiations of G20 climate ministers last month. Chinese president Xi Jinping will be notably absent from the G20 world leaders gathering in Delhi this weekend to discuss global economic, security and climate issues.

But the UN report said countries needed to be “more ambitious in action” and set “more ambitious targets” in order to cut emissions by the required 43 per cent by 2030 and by 60 per cent by 2035 compared with 2019 levels, in order to avert the dire consequences of a warmer planet.

This would mean a “radical” transformation of systems across all sectors, including boosting renewable energy, ending the use of all fossil fuels without the emissions captured, cutting methane and other greenhouse gases, ending deforestation, and improving energy efficiency, it said.

While renewable energy trends were “highly promising”, with costs falling sharply for solar, wind and batteries between 2010 and 2019, the investment in green energy was still not enough.

Global finance for climate action reached about $803bn annually for 2019-20, the report said, but this is less than a fifth of the estimated $4tn annual investment in clean energy technology needed to limit temperature rises to 2C or 1.5C.

In contrast, about $892bn was invested in fossil fuels a year, and a further $450bn was provided as subsidies for fossil fuels annually on average in 2019-20.

“Dramatic increases in investment in low- and zero-carbon emission activities and technologies will be needed . . . as well as disinvestment from emissions intensive activities and technologies,” it said.

Public money would not meet the costs, and private sector investment would be required, particularly in the developing world.

“I urge governments to carefully study the findings of the report and ultimately understand what it means for them and the ambitious action they must take next. It’s the same for businesses, communities and other key stakeholders,” said Simon Stiell, the head of the UN climate change arm.

To have a chance of meeting the Paris Agreement’s goals, the report says, global emissions have to peak before 2025.

Based on each country’s plans for climate change, or so-called nationally defined contributions, the “emissions gap” consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C in 2030 was as much as 24bn tonnes higher than it needed to be.

A key architect of the Paris agreement, Laurence Tubiana, said the global stocktake was “a moment of truth”.

“If everybody is serious we will come with stronger outcomes at COP. If we are not, it will be a moment where society has to turn to governments and clearly state — ‘you are all failing us’”.

Sultan al-Jaber, the United Arab Emirates’ president-designate of COP28, said the stocktake “provides clear direction” for the action needed “in this critical decade”.

The UAE itself is wrestling to shift from being a petrostate to a renewable energy economy, and has not submitted a net zero target to the UN despite a stated 2050 “strategic initiative” by its leadership.

“We must urgently disrupt business as usual and unite like never before to move from ambition to action and from rhetoric to real results,” Jaber said.

Financial Times




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