New IEA Data Finds COP26 Progress May Keep Global Warming Under 2 Degrees

New IEA Data Finds COP26 Progress May Keep Global Warming Under 2 Degrees

New analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that -- thanks to the new net zero emissions and methane reduction commitments made at COP26 -- the world could limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the results of the pledge made in Glasgow might just result in upholding the commitment of the Paris Agreement, and paving a path for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, which is necessary according to the latest projections.

Why this Matters

The IEA doesn't pull its punches. The agency's Executive Director Fatih Birol landed on TIME magazine's TIME 100 this year because "his data-driven approach is like Moneyball for the clean-energy revolution," as SPEC Kerry puts it, further stating that Birol "has transformed the International Energy Agency from a body mostly monitoring oil markets into a leading climate adviser to the world's major economies."

Heading into COP26, the UN warned that even if countries upheld their 2015 and 2016 climate promises, temperatures would rise by about 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100. But the new IEA assessment takes into account all pledges made ahead of and during COP26, as well as newly strengthened nationally determined contributions(NDCs), and offers hope that the world can not only reach, but exceed the goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement and the latest scientific expectations.

A Big "If"

Though this new analysis is reassuring, there is still more to be done. After all, the IPCC's landmark climate report suggests that the world is on track to surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming in the early 2030s, which would result in a deluge of climate catastrophes, which is why SPEC Kerry and others have suggested keeping the “goal of 1.5 degrees alive.” Sir Nicholas Stern, who produced a landmark 2006 report on the economics of climate change, told Reuters: "we really mustn't lose sight of the 1.5C."

The IEA finds that if countries and companies stick to their climate pledges, the world would still warm by 1.8 degrees Celsius, but that's a better starting point for progress than a 2.7-degree world which would be unlike anything we’ve ever imagined.

The biggest "if" of all is clear: progress will only arrive if countries and corporations keep their commitments.

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

IEA: Net Zero in 2050 - A roadmap for the global energy system, May 18, 2021.