Countries signal greater climate ambition on road to Glasgow

17 December 2020 | Mitigation


As 2020 comes to a close, world leaders have sent a signal of their willingness to step up their climate ambition, at a virtual event celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

75 world leaders along with the European Union and Pope Francis presented tougher carbon-cutting plans and commitments to adapt to climate impacts in a six-hour marathon event.

In total, 45 countries presented strengthened 2030 climate plans, with Japan and South Korea promising more ambitious targets next year. 24 leaders promised to cut emissions to net zero and 20 nations announced stronger adaptation and resilience plans.

While progress was made, a lot more is expected from countries to close the gap between the current level of ambition and what is needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Support for vulnerable nations to scale up their ambition at a time when Covid-19 has left them deep in debt was largely absent.

“We are at the beginning of the road. It’s a road of hope at the moment but we need to translate hope into reality,” UN secretary general António Guterres told reporters.

Argentina’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 means more than half of G20 countries would be covered by a net zero goal if president elect Joe Biden follows through on his own election promise next year.

Jamaica, Panama, the Maldives, Malawi, Nepal, and the Vatican joined a growing club of nations aiming to cut emissions to net zero in the first half of the century.

Guterres warned a number of the world’s largest emitters were yet to demonstrate they were ready to step up.

Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Brazil were among big emitters absent from the summit – failing to meet the ambition benchmark to participate.

China fell short of presenting a 2030 climate plan that reflects its long-term carbon neutrality goal. Instead, president Xi Jinping’s much-anticipated speech promised an incremental strengthening of China’s 2030 climate plan, with no mention of curbing coal.

On that front, Pakistan stole the show announcing it would stop building new coal power plants and pivot to clean energy. It promised to generate 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The commitment could cancel 6GW, which would have doubled Pakistan’s coal capacity, according to Chris Littlecott, associate director at think tank E3G.

In an honest reflection of the summit’s achievement, Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma said that while “real progress” had been made, nations had not done enough to put the world on track to limit warming to 1.5C – the tougher goal of the Paris accord.

“As encouraging as all this ambition is, it is not enough. And the clock continues to tick,” he said.

Setting out his plan for the work that lies ahead, Sharma said “a step change” in carbon-cutting efforts was needed to reach the 1.5C. That needed to included policies like phasing out coal, he said.

Sharma added “strengthening adaptation” and “getting finance flowing” were key to brokering an agreement at Cop26 in Glasgow and promised to convened major economies to make progress on these issues through the UK’s G7 presidency next year.

In the day’s most hotly anticipated announcement, President Xi’s speech failed to replicate the enthusiasm of his last UN intervention in September.

He reaffirmed his commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and peak China’s emissions “before 2030” – dates which Guterres said the UN would work to bring forward in bilateral dialogue.

By 2030, Xi promised to reduce carbon intensity to “over 65%” from 2005 levels and boost the growth of wind and solar energy, promising to reach 1,200GW of capacity, up from 415GW at the end of 2019.


Source: Climate Home News