In a key moment on the road to the much anticipated Paris climate meeting this December — and one underscoring just how difficult solving the climate problem will be — the United Nations has released a “synthesis” report assessing all of the emissions cutting pledges made by countries in advance of the meeting. And the upshot is both that countries have raised their climate ambitions greatly, but also that even by 2025 or 2030, global emissions are expected to still be rising despite of their efforts.
One hundred forty-six countries made pledges by Oct. 1 of this year, accounting for 86 percent of all of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These pledges, or “INDCs” (intended nationally determined contributions), have been a major factor in raising hopes that Paris will succeed where Copenhagen failed in 2009.
In the run-up to Copenhagen, just 27 countries announced pledges that contained “concrete mitigation targets” for cutting greenhouse gases, according to Taryn Fransen of the World Resources Institute. But this time around, more than 100 countries have made pledges, including many developing nations, she said.
It’s “a real evolution in terms of how countries are appreciating the need to firmly reduce emissions, and seeing it as something that could be compatible with development,” Fransen said in a conference call with the media on Thursday.
However, the United Nations’ assessment is sobering. If all of the INDCs are implemented, then global emissions will stand at roughly 55 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually by 2025, and 57 gigatons by 2030, the report states. That’s an increase from current levels of about 48 gigatons in 2010.
A gigaton is a billion metric tons, and as of 2011, the world only had about 1,000 left to emit in order to ensure a two-thirds or better chance of avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of warming, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Thus, by 2030 in this scenario, the new report finds that about 750 of those remaining gigatons will have been emitted. Another five years, with 57 gigatons of emissions per year, and the 2 degree threshold would then be breached.