Governments falling short of global warming pact
In December 2015, world leaders promised to limit global warming to between 1.5C and 2C but a new United Nations report admits they havent done enough to make that a reality. The Paris Agreement, which set the global temperature goal to protect humanity, has improved the outlook for future generations. Scientists once warned the world could be 5C hotter by 2100. Now, heating of up to 2.6C is more likely, according to the new report . The technology to achieve the short-term emissions cuts required is available and affordable, but much more action and support are needed to make urgent progress on the long-term goals set in the Paris Agreement, the analysis concluded. The admission came as Greece and Hong Kong experienced devastating flooding, likely worsened by the 1.2C of heating the world has already experienced. Climate Minister James Shaw said, essentially, governments were admitting publicly that they had fallen short. The report showed New Zealand needed to step up, he added. The single most important thing to do is deliver what weve promised. University of Canterbury professor Bronwyn Hayward emphasised the positives in the analysis, as well as the issues: Its important to notice that countries have made a difference already. The exercise came at an important time, she added. We are entering a very difficult time in international politics and many countries are arguing for their own national interests, or claiming that they are too small to make a difference alone. This is precisely why we have a global stocktake... a major step in maintaining global diplomatic pressure on all countries to play their part. Collectively, governments would need to prevent at least another 20 billion tonnes of emissions by 2030 for a decent shot at 1.5C, the report found. Another 12B tonnes, at least, were needed this decade to stay on track to 2C. The 20B tonne hole is equivalent to two-thirds of the worlds greenhouse pollution in an average year, said Oxfam climate justice expert Nick Henry. Wed need to reduce about 10% every year on top of what governments have already committed. The calculations assume that countries actually meet their pledged targets, the report noted. If not, the gaps would be even larger. The conclusion that there is a large rift between current efforts and the goals of the Paris Agreement wont come as a surprise, Shaw said. Expert bodies, including the International Energy Agency and the UNs own environmental agency , have issued warnings about the size of the gap for years. But this year, governments must face up to the shortfall. With no penalties for failure, the Paris pact relies on naming and shaming, Shaw said. So the UN will regularly undertake a global stocktake to evaluate progress towards the 1.5-2C temperature goals, he said. This is the first time its been done, and the new report is the initial step. UN support bodies prepared the document, with 170,000 pages of feedback from governments, scientists and non-profits. Government leaders and diplomats attending the UN climate summit starting in November will discuss the conclusions, potentially formulating a joint plan to address the shortfall. Because it includes every country, it does mean you can compare progress between different countries, Shaw said. The report warned: There is a rapidly narrowing window to raise ambition and implement existing commitments in order to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Globally, emissions must peak by 2025 and then rapidly fall to achieve the Paris climate targets. Massey University emeritus professor Ralph Sims said New Zealands greenhouse footprint may have peaked already though another couple of non-pandemic years are required to confirm the trend. If so, the nation would join 20 countries where emissions have fallen steadily. After peaking, emissions must nearly halve by 2030 to align with 1.5C, Sims said. The solutions are largely well understood but need political will to urgently increase their uptake. This involves individuals, families, businesses, local governments et cetera significantly reducing their carbon footprints however they can. This is not yet happening in New Zealand. There will be a large shortfall, Henry said, between the countrys pledge under the Paris Agreement and the cuts made at home. According to the Treasury , the Government could spend between $3B and $24B paying other countries to cut carbon on its behalf. Thats really the price of inaction. We want to see greater action from the New Zealand Government. Shaw is concerned the countrys climate progress could go backwards after the election. What I am seeing from other parties is at best weak tea and at worst, gaslighting. The UN analysis said countries particularly developed nations needed to set more ambitious domestic targets. In 2025, all governments will need to make a new pledge (or Nationally Determined Contribution), though are free to update their current one at any point. To achieve the targets, the world would need to invest heavily in renewable electricity generation which could achieve three-quarters of the emissions cuts needed. Incentives and policies to boost EVs, walking, electric industrial boilers and energy efficiency as well as to end deforestation were also necessary, the report said. Our weekly email newsletter, by the Forever Project's Olivia Wannan, rounds up the latest climate events. Sign up here .