Days From COP26, UN Calls Climate Pledges Too Weak to Stop Warming

UN says world's climate pledges are too weak

As the world gets ready for COP26 in Glasgow, many nations are upping their pledges to lower emissions before 2030. But according to a UN report released Tuesday, even if Argentina, Britain, Canada, the EU, South Africa, and the US achieve their pledged goals, it would account for only one-seventh of the reductions needed to limit global temperature rise to1.5 degrees Celsius.

Why this Matters

The report projects that even if countries uphold their climate promises, temperatures will rise by about 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100 above pre-industrial levels. This outcome would have catastrophic effects on the planet, such as punishing heatwaves, extended droughts, ecosystem collapse, flooding, wildfires, and crop failure.

This report's findings rely on the basis that countries will follow through with their proposed plans -- but that is hardly a guarantee. Without policies and regulations to enforce (deeper) emissions cuts, warming will get even worse.

"The Clock is Ticking Loudly"

The US has promised to cut emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, and the EU aims to cut emissions 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. But the path toward these goals isn't certain. President Biden's landmark climate policy still awaits approval from Congress, and the EU's climate legislation needs endorsement from all 27 of its member states.

Moreover, major emitters like India and Turkey have not made short-term pledges. Some pledges, like those from Russia and Saudi Arabia, will not reduce emissions between now and 2030.

"The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species," Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said. "To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly."

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft: Climate Chaos - Confronting the Real Existential Threat, November 4, 2021.