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Climate pledges by 140 countries will limit global warming to 2.7C – report

Traffic jam in Delhi, India. Creative Commons, 2008.

Traffic jam in Delhi, India. Creative Commons, 2008.

Current climate pledges submitted by 140 countries will limit global warming to 2.7C compared to pre-industrial levels, according to expert analysis.

A Climate Action Tracker (CAT)  by four European research groups analysed the climate pledges, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), submitted by 140 countries on Thursday, the informal United Nations deadline in the run-up to the Paris climate talks in December.

This excluded India which submitted its plans on the following day, coinciding with the birthday of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Experts warned the current pledges by countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, led by top emitters China and the United States, take the world significantly closer – but not all the way – to limiting global temperature rise to below the internationally agreed threshold of 2C.

The analysts say the current pledges are an improvement compared to previous estimations from last December, which projected around 3.1C of warming.

But with temperatures still surpassing the 2C red-line means that the Earth would still face more dangerous effects of climate change, including droughts, extinctions of species, floods and rising seas, which could swamp coastal regions and entire island nations.

Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, which is part of CAT, told Reuters:

We’re below 3C for the first time. We’re obviously far from where we need to be, but this is a signal that the process can work.

He also said the main contributor to this improvement was China’s plan, submitted in June, to get emissions from burning coal, oil and natural gas to peak by around 2030.

Taryn Fransen, of the World Resources Institute think-tank, said:

What the negotiations are looking to do is build not just that first step but the entire staircase.

Experts said the wide participation was welcome. Frank Melum, a senior analyst at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, said:

It takes away one of the possible stumbling blocks for Paris.

He said every emitter accounting for more than 1% of global emissions met the 1 October deadline, except India, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is fearful of a shift from fossil fuels.

India’s pledge, submitted on Friday, includes commitments to source 40% of its electricity from renewable and other low-carbon sources by 2030, and to cut the “emissions intensity” of its economy – a ratio of carbon emissions per unit of GDP – by up to 35% by 2030.

Including India, one of the biggest emitters, the plans covered around 77% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN climate change secretariat announced it will add them all up in the coming weeks to calculate their estimated effect in slowing climate change. Privately, it had allowed countries a few days’ leeway.

The CAT has now analysed 19 of the INDCs, amounting to around 71% of global emissions, but have found many of them to be inadequate.

The plans to date offer the foundation for a global agreement that could be ratcheted up over time, and a top priority for the Paris talks, will now be to find ways to toughen the plans in order to meet the 2C target.

Professor Kornelis Blok of energy and climate consultancy Ecofys said:

All big emitters should seriously reconsider improving their INDCs between now and Paris, or soon after.  That only two Governments have climate commitments rated sufficient is not ideal, only two months before Paris.

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