World prepares for new climate change commitments

With historic global negotiations on climate change less than a month away, new analysis from the UN argues that governments will have to go much further than their current pledges to cut emissions.

The conclusion was reached by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) after analysing 132 of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that detail countries’ national climate action plans.

The findings mean that governments will have to agree on more ambitious climate change policies when they meet for negotiations in Paris in December if the world is to keep the rise in global temperature to within the 2°C deemed safe by climate scientists. 

Closing the gap

It is hoped that the agreement reached in Paris will set a clear course for global action on climate change beyond 2020, when current UN agreements are set to expire. 

The EU has already committed to a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent by 2030 against a 1990 baseline as part of its nationally-determined contribution.

However, UNEP reports that all of the current nationally-determined plans taken together will still only reduce global emissions by 11 giga-tonnes by 2030, 12 giga-tonnes short of what is needed.

“The INDCs assessed in this Emissions Gap report signal a breakthrough in terms of international efforts to bend the curve of future emissions”, said UNEP executive director, Achim Steiner. 

“However, in order to close the gap it is essential that the Paris Agreement adopt a dynamic approach in which ambitions, the mobilisation of climate finance and other forms of cooperation can be adjusted upwards at regular intervals”.

International disagreement

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), described the current pledges from countries as a “foundation upon which ever higher ambition can be built”, adding that she was confident that they were not the final word in what countries are willing to commit to. 

However, disagreements over the final details of a global deal in Paris are already starting to emerge. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has argued the deal is "definitively" not going to be legally-binding, despite the EU warning that any agreement must be established into law in order to ensure that countries deliver on their commitments. 

The outcome in Paris, while currently unclear, is likely to provide a much-needed picture of future climate change policy and what will be expected of business post-2020 in terms of reducing emissions. 

Posted under General Interest on 18 November 2015