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UN climate chief slams ‘incredible’ failure as emissions plans flatline



A recent dump of new national climate plans will do almost nothing to cut emissions this decade, a report from the U.N. said Friday.

Just 75 governments out of the 191 that signed the Paris Agreement met a U.N. deadline to submit their climate plans by the end of last year. The U.N. climate body has totted up the cumulative effect of those new pledges — which cover around a third of global emissions — and found those countries would emit 2.8 percent less in 2030 than under the old plans.

U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa said the efforts were “simply not good enough.”

“It’s incredible to think that just when nations are facing an emergency that could eventually end human life on this planet, despite every study, every report and the clear warnings from scientists throughout the world, many nations are sticking to their business-as-usual approach,” said Espinosa, who serves as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The new pledges are part of an international effort to align national commitments with the goals of the Paris Agreement — to hold warming below 2 degrees and ideally at 1.5 degrees — ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November. Existing pledges set the world on track to heat by around 3 degrees.

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Anything over 2 degrees warming poses an existential risk to low-lying island states. “We must hold every country accountable for this damning report,” said Aubrey Webson, an Antiguan ambassador who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States.

“The U.S. recently rejoined the Paris Agreement and the world applauded,” said Webson. “Now we need them to continue to showcase real climate leadership. Other large emitters that have not yet made pledges must do so immediately.”

The report “is a red alert for our planet,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Many countries delayed their submission after COP26 was postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the four largest carbon polluters, only the EU has submitted a new 2030 target.

The U.S. this week said it would submit a new plan at a climate summit to be hosted by President Joe Biden on April 22. China has indicated it intends to change its target from peak emissions “around 2030” to “before 2030.” India has not yet committed to setting a new goal.

The COP26 hosts in the U.K. raised their goal from 40 percent to a 68 percent drop by 2030 from 1990 levels. The EU goal was raised from 40 percent to 55 percent.

Even with some “really very, very ambitious plans,” Espinosa said, the new goals mean the emissions of the 75 countries would fall by just 0.5 percent between 2010 and 2030.

If planetary warming is to held below 1.5 degrees — a level of relative safety compared to catastrophe at 2 degrees or more — the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said a drop of 45 percent is required over that 20-year time period for all countries.

Ten mid to large emitters have submitted new goals, but not raised their ambition from the plans they put forward ahead of the 2015 Paris climate summit, according to Climate Action Tracker. Those countries include Russia, Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Korea.

Speaking with journalists, Espinosa said governments that had already made their submission should “go back” and “really look at very, very carefully what you are able to offer.”

“I need your utmost ambition. I need your utmost effort. I need your transformational decisions,” the Mexican diplomat said in a direct plea to all governments. “I need you to put in place a very concrete plan to phase out fossil fuels as fast as possible.”

New Zealand has said it is awaiting advice from its climate change commission in 2021 and may submit an updated target.

The U.N. report noted that more governments were taking account of the need to plan for the impacts of climate change. They also increasingly acknowledge the need to soften the blow to workers and communities most affected by the transition to clean energy.

Still, Espinosa said, too few countries had plans that would avert dangerous warming: “We are collectively wandering into a minefield blindfolded, the next step could mean disaster.”



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