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UN report finds nations must be more ambitious with national climate action plans to achieve Paris goal

UN Climate Change published the Initial NDC Synthesis Report, showing nations must redouble efforts and submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they’re to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2 °C—ideally 1.5 °C—by the end of the century.

The report shows that while the majority of nations represented increased their individual levels of ambition to reduce emissions, their combined impact puts them on a path to achieve a less than 1% reduction by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by contrast, has indicated that emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around 45% lower.

2021 is a make or break year to confront the global climate emergency. The science is clear, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 ˚C, we must cut global emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels. Today’s interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet. It shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The major emitters must step up with much more ambitious emissions reductions targets for 2030 in their Nationally Determined Contributions well before the November UN Climate Conference in Glasgow.

Now is the time. The global coalition committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 is growing, across governments, businesses, investors, cities, regions and civil society. COVID-19 recovery plans offer the opportunity to build back greener and cleaner. Decision makers must walk the talk. Long-term commitments must be matched by immediate actions to launch the decade of transformation that people and planet so desperately need.

—UN Secretary-General António Guterres

The report was requested by Parties to the Paris Agreement to measure the progress of national climate action plans—known as NDCs—ahead of COP26 this November in Glasgow. The initial version synthesizes information from 48 new or updated NDCs, representing 75 Parties, submitted as of 31 December 2020. These 75 Parties represent about 40% of Parties to the Paris Agreement and account for about 30% of global GHG emissions.

Total GHG emission levels resulting from implementation of the targets communicated in the new or updated NDCs are projected to be around 14.04 Gt CO2 eq in 2025 and around 13.67 Gt CO2 eq in 2030, which is about 0.3% (38 Mt CO2 eq) lower for 2025 and about 2.8% (398 Mt CO2 eq) lower for 2030 than the total emission levels according to the Parties’ previous NDCs.

This report shows that current levels of climate ambition are very far from putting us on a pathway that will meet our Paris Agreement goals. While we acknowledge the recent political shift in momentum towards stronger climate action throughout the world, decisions to accelerate and broaden climate action everywhere must be taken now. This underlines why COP 26 must be the moment when we get on track towards a green, clean, healthy and prosperous world.

—Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change

Espinosa clarified that the Synthesis Report is a “snapshot, not a full picture” of the NDCs as COVID-19 posed significant challenges for many nations with respect to completing their submissions in 2020. She indicated that a second report will be released prior to COP26 and called on all countries—specifically major emitters that have not yet done so—to make their submissions as soon as possible, so that their information can be included in the updated report.


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