COP26: World on track for 2.4C warming despite climate summit pledges

Global temperatures are expected to rise by at least 2.4C, despite pledges made at the COP26 climate talks for the next decade, new analysis from the Climate Action Tracker warned today.

Climate Action Tracker warming projections

The predictions described “a serious credibility gap” between the promises made at Glasgow climate and what is needed to reduce carbon emissions.

One of the key aims of COP26 was to implement the Paris Agreement and limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.

But today, even if all new pledges were implemented, global emissions in 2030 would be twice as high as that required for a 1.5C limit.

With just the policies currently implemented, temperatures were estimated to rise by 2.7C, the analysis said. This was described as “catastrophic climate change” that people “simply can’t handle.”

Even Carbon Action’s Tracker’s most optimistic outlook predicted that temperature rise would still rise be 1.8C by the end of the century. This assumed that all 2030 and long-term targets and the net zero strategies were delivered. It was not considered likely.

Contributors to the Climate Action Tracker analysis urged all the countries at the COP talks to “urgently look at what more they can do”.

They said governments must agree to meet again next year with new and stronger targets.  And countries that planned to phase out coal must go straight to renewables, they said.

Emissions gap

140 governments, covering 90% of global emissions, have announced net zero targets by around 2050.

But Niklas Hohne, of the NewClimate Institute, a contributor to the analysis, said:

“Not a single country has short-term policies in place to put itself on track for its own net zero target.”

He described net zero targets as a “good vision” but they had to be backed by short-term action, he said, otherwise they were “simply not credible”.

“All countries have to go back and rethink what they can do. And the only way to do that is to basically go into emergency mode.

“If we just go baby steps each time it doesn’t work. Governments have to do something substantially different.”

Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, another CAT partner, said the study had found a “massive credibility, action and commitment gap”.

“Glasgow is the first real test of whether the Paris Agreement ratchet up mechanisms work”, he said. Countries were invited to bring to COP26 updated and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions for emissions reductions in 2030 to keep the 1.5C limit in sight.

But he said:

“the 2030 emissions gap is still so huge we can’t really see that as being possible at present.

“It’s all very well for leaders and governments to claim that they have a net zero target but if they don’t have plans to get there and their 2030 targets are not aligned with net zero then these net zero targets are just paying lip service to real climate action.

“That is the key reason why, at this stage, we think that Glasgow has a very big credibility gap.”

Maria Jose de VillaFranca Casas, also of NewClimate Institute, said countries had to phase out coal and gas to stay on track by 1.5C.

“These countries that plan to move away from coal need to be very careful not to get to locking emissions to switching to another fossil fuel, gas, and instead concentrate on changing this to renewable energy.”

“Mountain to climb”

Today’s analysis has very different conclusions from a prediction from the International Energy Agency last week, which said new net zero commitments, if delivered, could keep temperatures down to around 1.8C.

The COP26 president Alok Sharma told a news conference today that the emissions curve had bent towards 2C but he added:

“Of course that isn’t good enough. What we’ve always said is that we wanted at this COP to say with credibility that we’re keeping 1.5 alive, 1.5 within reach, and that is what we’re going to be working towards over the coming days.

“We are making progress but we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days.”

He said that the cover text, the first version due overnight, could require countries to submit updated plans more often than every five years.

Campaign groups have questioned the value of net zero targets, which they say are based on unproven technology and techniques such as carbon offsetting.

Jennifer Morgan, director of Greenpeace International, described the CAT projections as “devastating” and called on governments to “immediately set aside their differences and work with uncompromising vigour for a deal to save our common future” at COP26 this week.”

“We have until the weekend to turn this thing around. That means countries agreeing how they’re going come back next year and every year after that until the gap to 1.5C is closed. The Ministers shouldn’t leave this city until they’ve nailed that.”

Labour’s shadow energy minister, Ed Miliband, described the analysis as “an important reality check on the government’s attempt to greenwash Glasgow”.

“The summit has failed to confront the scale of the action necessary, and they have undermined their own climate cause by over-claiming what they have achieved from coal to trees – talking up modest progress in Glasgow as transformational, with big emitters too often getting off the hook.”

Reporting at COP26 has been possible because of donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

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