Time is running out, midway through the second week of COP26, the United Nations Environmental Partnership (UNEP) presented its assessment on the change to global temperature projections based on the updated pledges so far agreed in Glasgow.
Pledges made prior to COP26 via Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) put the world on track to reach a temperature increase of 2.7C by the end of the century. To reach the Paris Agreement target of keeping warming below 1.5C this century, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 55% in the next eight years. At this point in COP26, updated pledges now account for just an 8% reduction – this is 7 times too small to keep to 1.5C and 4 times too small to keep to 2C. Updated projections based on COP26 so far now estimate a temperature rise of 2.4C by 2100. Net-zero pledges could reduce this by a further 0.5C however plans are sketchy and not included in NDCs. So far just five of the G20 countries are on a pathway to net-zero.
Interview with Anne Olhoff, Emissions Gap Report (EGR) 2021 Chief scientific editor and Head of Strategy, Climate Planning and Policy, UNEP DTU Partnership.
Anne explained how the EGR is produced each year and independently evaluates the latest climate science together with global climate policy. It assesses where we are, based on the science, and a prediction of the gap in greenhouse gas reduction pledges needed to keep within 1.5C. I asked Anne about policy implementation in law:
“Countries pledge targets for example for 2030 under the UN framework for climate change and there’s no international law to enforce them, at least not yet. Some countries have put net-zero policies into law, which has a much bigger impact as the government can be held accountable for the implementation of their pledges.”
Following my own shock at the size of the emissions gap, I asked Anne if she feels there has been any positive changes in recent years:
“I do think we have seen a lot of change, actually…the thing is, things are not moving as fast as they should. We have seen change in terms of the commitment of countries and the policy development and development in new technology needed to achieve the goals, these are all positive developments and here now, changing the whole narrative. Just 2 years ago no one would have thought we’d have 70 countries setting net-zero emission targets…we are also seeing greater divergence between countries, between those making the effort to assist the green transition such as the UK, EU and others, and those further behind the curve such as China, Brazil and India. It’s important to help these countries transition very soon, peaking emissions and rapidly declining after that.”
I asked Anne about how countries on track can support others:
“A lot of the great things here (at COP) are to strengthen that international collaboration and sharing of experiences, it’s an important function of the COP meeting, but we need to have the political will and leadership in the countries to drive this forward.”
Written by Helen Hooker, COPCAS 2021 PhD Student.