Mind the gap; we are heading for a climate disaster: Experts

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on March 05, 2020 Published on March 05, 2020

Say Governments, private sector and communities need to switch into crisis mode

The half-hearted global efforts to cut down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the past decade is pushing humanity towards a precarious future and the world may have to work four times more to minimise the effects of climate change, said a commentary in scientific journal Nature on Wednesday.

A team of climate policy experts, including Navroz K Dubash, a professor at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research (CPR), arrived at this conclusion by comparing what various countries pledged to do individually to reduce GHG emissions and what they need to do collectively to meet agreed temperature goals.

Other prominent names among the 15 experts are Niklas Hoehne and Takeshi Kuramochi of NewClimate Institute in Cologne in Germany and Anne Olhoff of Technical University of Copenhagen.

The experts drew their conclusion by synthesising 10 editions of the Emissions Gap report brought out by the UN Environment Programme between 2010 and 2019.

In the 2009 Copenhagen accord and the 2010 Cancun agreement (hammered out at a conference of parties of the UN Framework of Climate Change Convention in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in Mexico in 2010, respectively), counties collectively pledged to limit warming to below 2°C, and 73 countries individually pledged emissions targets for 2020.

Subsequently, in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that warming of more than 1.5°C would be disastrous for the planet.

Rising emissions

“Had serious climate action began in 2010, the cuts required to meet the emissions levels for 2°C would have been around 2 per cent per year, on an average, up to 2030. Instead, emissions increased. Consequently, the required cuts are now more than 7 per cent on an average for 1.5°C,” said the experts in the Nature report.

“In practice, a 7 per cent per year emissions cuts is very difficult and well beyond the demonstrated ability of any country so far that I am aware of. This demonstrates the enormous challenge of limiting warming to 1.5°C,” said CPR’s Dubash.

Despite all the pledges, by 2015, the estimated global emissions for 2030 had decreased by only 3 per cent. As part of the analysis, the experts looked at the performance of the seven top emitters — China (13.2 per cent of total emissions in 2018), the US (6.6 per cent), the EU (4 per cent), India (3.8 per cent), Russia (2.4 per cent), Indonesia (2.3 per cent) and Brazil (1.6 per cent). There was no change in the proposed 2030 emissions levels in the case of China, the US and Russia. The EU managed to lower it and India decreased its emissions levels only by a bit. The emissions levels have increased in Indonesia and Brazil mainly because of deforestation.

India’s projected emissions are only slightly lower because it appears to have built its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — which is its pledge — around policies that are already in place, said the CPR professor.

“(Many) other countries have built the NDC to go beyond future policies, with the expectation of additional policies to be put in place. The EU has put in place new policies to meet its NDC, hence its projected emissions are lower. Indonesia and Brazil appear to have gone backwards from their 2014 policies,” Dubash told BusinessLine.

The silver lining

On the brighter side, the experts said, more countries, regions, cities and corporate houses are implementing the deep, rapid transformations that are urgently required. For example, Costa Rica, the Shenzen region in China and Copenhagen have made significant strides by using renewable energy and electrifying transport. Similarly, the UK and California in the US have at least set the ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral.

The experts argued that success stories are few and far between and there is an urgent need for scaling them up. “The gap is so huge that governments, private sector and communities need to switch into crisis mode, make their climate pledges more ambitious and focus on early and aggressive action,” they urged.

As the paper said, seven G20 countries — Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and the US — need to implement new policies just to meet their NDC pledges. India is comparatively better, but given the need for change, every country needs to be looking for opportunities to transition to a lower carbon future, Dubash said.

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Published on March 05, 2020
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