UN Report Reveals Climate Action “Gap” Ahead of Paris

Climate Oct 30, 2015
Gustavo A. Silva-Chávez

In the run-up to the major international climate conference in Paris in five weeks, this morning the UN released a report estimating the cumulative impact of country climate commitments submitted to date. After crunching the numbers, the new “Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDC” indicates that the planned post-2020 actions countries intend to take under a new international climate agreement would likely result in a global temperature increase of 2.7°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

This is significant progress compared to just several months ago, when it seemed as if a 4°C or more temperature increase was on the horizon. Since then, over 150 countries have submitted emissions reductions targets in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) — the official name of the climate actions nations propose to take after 2020 — to the UNFCC. That group includes all major emitters, the U.S. and China among them, as well as over 50 developing countries with significant emissions from deforestation — most notably, Indonesia and Brazil. Together, these INDCs have brought the expected temperature increase down by 1°3C.

This report shows countries from around the world have stepped up to the plate to cut global warming. The commitments made by over 150 countries get us in the ballpark of what we need to keep global temperatures at acceptable levels — but they don’t give us the homerun we need.

According to many climate scientists, any increase above 2°C degrees will cause severe, irreversible climate impacts. However, closing this 0.7°C degree gap is within reach and something that the final negotiations in Paris can potentially achieve. Some developing countries included more aggressive, “conditional” emissions reductions targets in their INDCs, which they say will require international finance in order to achieve. Ensuring that these countries have access to the finance they need should be one of the primary objectives in Paris.

Governments aren’t the only actors who can help us close this gap. The private sector can continue to step up — through commitments to remove deforestation from supply chains, for example.

To keep this outlook in perspective, it is important to remember that countries’ intended climate actions apply to the years after 2020 and that in Paris, countries will be discussing the types of actions they can do in the 2015-2020 period.

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