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Key Countries Miss UN Deadline for Updated Climate Targets

The world’s two most populous countries and one of its most relentless fossil fuel producers have all missed the July 31 to submit updated carbon reduction plans to the United Nations climate secretariat, just days before this morning’s landmark science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The failure to deliver by China, India, and Saudi Arabia raised fresh fears that this year’s UN climate conference, already beset by shaky leadership from the United Kingdom, will fall short of an agreement to deliver faster, deeper emission cuts despite a wave of climate disasters sweeping the globe.

The commitments from the 110 countries that have filed their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) with the UN shows that global leadership on climate is still coming from small island developing states and developing nations “whose emissions are towered by G20 countries,” E3G climate diplomacy lead Alex Scott told Climate Home News.

“With all the pledges on the table we are basically stabilizing global emissions by 2030 when we should be cutting them by half,” added NewClimate Institute policy specialist Niklas Höhne.

UN climate secretary Patricia Espinosa “welcomed that 110 signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had met the cut-off date, which was extended from the end of 2020 due to the pandemic,” The Associated Press writes. “But she said it was ‘far from satisfactory’ that only 58% had submitted their new targets in time.” 

Espinosa cited a UN report earlier this year that showed countries’ climate plans falling far short of what will be needed to hold average global warming at 2.0°C, much less the more ambitious and utterly essential target of 1.5°C.

“Recent extreme heat waves, droughts, and floods across the globe are a dire warning that much more needs to be done, and much more quickly, to change our current pathway,” she said. “This can only be achieved through more ambitious NDCs.”

“The level of ambition reflected in those national climate action plans…needs to be enhanced,” she added in an official statement July 31. “One of the key findings in the initial version of the synthesis report showed that collective efforts fall far short of what is required by science,” and “I truly hope that the revised estimate of collective efforts will reveal a more positive picture.”

Climate Home says Barbados, Guinea, Israel, Malawi, Malaysia, Namibia, Nigeria, Oman, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Zambia all got their NDCs in ahead of the deadline. “Among those to have already submitted, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Russia put forward emissions targets to the UN identical to or weaker than their previous versions,” the UK-based publication states, citing Climate Action Tracker. “Earlier this month, Indonesia updated its NDC, with unchanged headline targets but plans to peak emissions by 2030 and strengthened sectoral policies.”

Those results had Espinosa urging countries that have already presented their updated plans “to look at them again, and if possible, come up with revised NDCs”.

China says it will file its plan “in the near future”, and is expected to stand pat with its current plan to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. There had been hope earlier this year that the country would accelerate its target to 2025. Now, with Climate Action Tracker rating its performance “highly insufficient”, Li Shuo of Greenpeace East Asia told Climate Home that “COP 26 is the good faith actor test for China”.

China and India are the world’s biggest and third-biggest emitters, AP notes. Saudi Arabia distinguished itself in 2018 with its determined effort to obstruct the IPCC’s 1.5°C pathways report. Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman recently dismissed the International Energy Agency’s net-zero pathways report as “La La Land” and vowed last month that his country will drill “every last molecule” of oil in its possession.