Global climate pledges enough to limit warming, but...
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A summary of pledges from more than 140 United Nations member-states showed that it is still possible to limit global warming to below the danger threshold – but countries need to do more to avoid more devastating impacts of climate change.
The Synthesis Report, released by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Friday, October 30, summarized the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) from a total of 146 countries as of October 1.
The INDCs are plans drawn up by each country – or in the case of the European Union, a single party representing 28 countries – to help combat the effects of climate change. (READ: Philippines commits to reduce carbon emissions by 70%)
The report, released a month before the official start of the crucial climate talks in Paris, France, on November 30, said that the pledges from these countries leave the "door open" to the 2ºC (3.6ºF) temperature limit by 2030.
The UNFCCC said that the INDCs submitted so far include all developed nations and 3/4 of developing countries, accounting for 86% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of the pledges from developing countries are contingent on receiving financial support for cutting emissions and adapting to climate impacts – drought, sea level rise, flooding – already in the pipeline.
These pledges will "bring global average emissions per capita down by as much as 8% in 2025 and 9% in by 2030," the UNFCCC said in a statement.
If we stick to the current INDCs, our planet will still get warmer by 2.7ºC by 2100, but this is significantly lower than the initial estimates of 4-5 degrees or more of warming.
But even if these 10-to-15 year plans are fulfilled, humanity will have used up 3/4 of its carbon "budget" by 2030 and must slash greenhouse gas output even more to avoid devastating climate impacts.
To stay under the 2ºC threshold scientists estimate that humanity has a total CO2 budget of about 1,000 gigatons.
"Fully implemented these plans together begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions: as a floor they provide a foundation upon which ever higher ambition can be built," Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was quoted as saying.
"The national contributions are a game changer, and distance us from the worst," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will host the year-end climate talks.
Analysts have noted that many INDC pledges are probably conservative, leaving room for greater ambition.
"It's very likely that China, for example, can and will move faster than it has offered," said Martin Kaiser, head of climate politics at Greenpeace. "It's already rapidly getting out of coal and into renewables."
But the emissions gap is large, and the window of opportunity for action narrow.
The pledges going into the Paris summit "only take us from a 4ºC catastrophe to a 3ºC disaster," commented anti-poverty NGO Oxfam.
"I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time–the journey to a climate safe-future is underway and the Paris agreement to be inked in Paris can confirm, and catalyze that transition," Figueres added. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com