Eight years after world leaders committed to slashing greenhouse gas emissions at the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, the world is not on track to meet the long-term, the first official climate change report card, Global Stocktake, revealed earlier this month.
In November, representatives from nearly 200 countries will come together to discuss climate action goals at the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28). This will also conclude the crucial first ‘Global Stocktake’ of the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The technical dialogue of the report, published on 8 September, says that while the 2015 Paris Agreement has driven near-universal climate action by setting goals and communicating the urgency of climate action, the efforts are not enough to avoid the dangerous consequences of global warming.
Before the countries relook and revise targets for COP 28, the stocktake presents a report of the results of the previous commitments to assess the progress towards combating the climate crisis.
The good news is that global awareness of climate change is higher than ever before and the need for including climate adaptation into decision-making is considered crucial.
Support and funding for climate action have increased significantly in the last 10 years and there is growing awareness about the consequences of climate change, which have led to nations across the world scaling up their efforts.
However, the window to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius is closing rapidly and the efforts to reduce global emissions is not consistent with the “modelled global mitigation pathways consistent with the global temperature goal of the Paris Agreement nor are they aligned with longer-term emission reduction goals,” the report states.
While consequences of the climate crisis are increasing and threatening the world, adaptation efforts continue to focus on planning and not on improving adapting capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability.
Notably, a United Nations (UN) report in October last year warned that the world is currently on track for around 2.5°C of warming by the end of the century.
The stocktake report says there is an urgent need to reduce global emissions by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 and reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 globally to have a chance at limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to the technical report, scaling up renewable energy and phasing out unabated fossil fuels are indispensable elements of energy transitions to net-zero emissions. However, the latter has often been left out of discussions on climate action goals.
For instance, the G20 countries, that met in New Delhi on 9 September, said that they will aim for triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and boost the efforts to phase down coal power but they did not commit to a phase-out of polluting fossil fuels, including oil and gas, a Press Trust India report said.
G20 countries account for 93% of the world's operating coal capacity (1,926 GW) and 88% of (305 GW) the pre-construction coal capacity, according to a report by Global Energy Monitor.
“The removal of fossil fuel subsidies is a key strategy for addressing structural economic barriers that can perpetuate inertia to change and prevent cost-effective low-carbon alternatives from being adopted at scale,” the stocktake report states.
It also said that countries need to stop $450 billion in annual subsidies for coal, oil and natural gas, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP).
Ending deforestation, reducing non-CO2 emissions and implementing supply- and demand-side measures are important to achieve net zero carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Stopping and reversing deforestation by 2030 and restoring and protecting natural ecosystems could help in large-scale carbon dioxide absorption.
The Global Stocktake report emphasised that measures to implement systems transformations in industry, transport, buildings and other sectors should rapidly reduce process and energy emissions to meet climate action goals.
Currently, emissions from cities are estimated to be 67 to 72% of global emissions, including indirect emissions outside urban areas. Existing and yet-to-be-built buildings can have net zero emissions by 2050 if they “use low-carbon construction materials, reduce energy demand and implement mitigation options in design, construction, use and retrofits.”
Transportation currently contributes to about 15% of global GHG emissions. Phasing out internal combustion engines and switching to electric vehicles can be one of the most important climate actions for the sector.
“Climate impacts are eroding past human development gains” and without sufficient adaptation action, this will significantly impact the world’s ability to make such gains in the future, the report says.
According to the report, adaptation is “the responsibility of all governments, at all levels, yet the capacity to recover is undermined by repeated extreme climate events.” Although there are plans and ambitions for adaptation strategies, these are fragmented, incremental, sector-specific and unequally distributed across regions.
The report states that adaptation planning is the first step in breaking cycles to facilitate moving from awareness of climate risks to effective action and implementation of solutions to support greater resilience gains and reduction in vulnerability.
The fundamental starting point for improved adaptation action is the “dissemination of climate information through climate services to meet local needs and priorities,” the report adds.
The Globak Stocktake report also talked about the need to improve access to climate finance in developing countries. According to it, debts can sometimes can limit some developing countries’ investment in climate action and other development priorities.
Although the world is dealing with multiple crises, opportunities for enhanced climate action cannot be ignored. The report “feels like a final warning,” Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare, a climate scientist, told the Associated Press. “'If you guys don't get your act together, we're going to cook.'”