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UN: Climate ‘down-payments’ delivered, but must be built-upon in Paris

climate 'down-payments'

Creative Commons, 2011

With less than four weeks until governments meet in Paris for the UN climate summit, new analysis from the UNFCCC shows climate pledges currently on the table could drive a substantial deceleration in emissions growth over the next 15 years.

Described as a “down-payment on a new era of climate ambition”, the pledges – which cover nearly 150 countries and 90 per cent of global emissions – represent a step change in government’s willingness to take action on climate change.

The pledges are expected to slow emissions growth by approximately a third between 2010 and 2030, compared to the period 1990 to 2010, and deliver emissions reductions of around 4Gt – more than the annual emissions of the EU – by 2030 on current projections.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said:

These INDCs–or national climate action plans–represent a clear and determined down-payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations. Governments from all corners of the Earth have signalled through their INDCs that they are determined to play their part according to their national circumstances and capabilities.

But the analysis is clear: these pledges are still insufficient and ambition needs to be raised before 2020 and regularly thereafter, if governments are to cut emissions in the most cost effective way and keep the world within the internationally agreed danger threshold of 2DegC warming, or the 1.5DegC called for by vulnerable nations.

350.org Strategy and Communications Director Jamie Henn said:

We’re going to need to see more ambition in Paris. The targets currently on the table still aren’t enough to prevent climate catastrophe. To close the gap, politicians must settle on a clear mechanism to increase ambition, make real financial commitments, and agree to a unifying goal of completely decarbonizing the global economy… While the current pledges are inadequate, they’re still enough to send a clear signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is over – there’s no way to meet these targets, let alone the stronger ones necessary, without a full scale transition to renewable energy.

While the UN’s own analysis did not assess implications for temperature change from the plans, other analysis has aimed to map these changes, with Climate Action Tracker showing these initial pledges have the potential to deliver almost a full degree (0.9DegC) of avoided temperature rise and bend the warning curve to 2.7DegC.

This latest analysis also echoes a host of other findings which show that national pledges will bring multiple benefits.

Research from the New Climate Institute shows that the current pledges could see hundreds of thousands of deaths prevented due to improved air quality, millions of jobs created and billions of dollars saved in fossil fuel imports.

On top of this, they will serve as an entry point for a huge transition to a low carbon economy that will help to further push down the costs of renewables of and make them the dominant source of electricity by 2030.

India and China’s pledges alone suggest the two countries will install twice the current global capacity of wind and solar in the next 15 years, while the US’ Clean Power Plan will boost the market share of clean energy in the country from 12 to 21 per cent.   

But more action means even more benefits and pressure is on governments to arrive in Paris ready to signal their intention to phase out fossil fuels by the middle of the century, and review and increase their pledges well ahead of 2020, and every five years after that.

Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Advisor, Mohamed Adow said:

These announced national climate plans must be seen as the floor, not the ceiling of a country’s ambition. Governments must build upon them to deliver stronger action now and into the future. The Paris outcome alone won’t prevent climate change, it will just get us closer to the agreed goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2C… Paris will not be the end of the world’s efforts to tackle climate change, but it might be the end of the beginning.

With vulnerable nations punching above their weight, richer countries are expected to provide financial and technological support to poorer nations trying to maximise their emissions reductions.

By supporting this robust regime, responsible governments would take another stride towards limiting warming to below 2DegC, and securing a future powered by 100 per cent renewables unstoppable – dragging along laggard countries currently uncommitted to the transition, while protecting millions more lives, saving billions of additional dollars, and delivering millions more jobs.

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