Progress on the central goal of the Paris Agreement isn’t nearly enough to keep average global temperature increases below 2.0ºC above pre-industrial levels—the limit nations agreed two years ago was necessary to avoid catastrophic climate disturbance—even when some major emitters are meeting or beating their commitments.
China and India are projected to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions even faster than they promised in 2015. The United States (and Canada) are lagging; so, most likely, is Europe. But no one is close to cutting emissions sharply enough. That’s not new. The International Energy Agency suggested a year ago that most countries were “generally on track to achieve, and even exceed in some instances,” their Paris commitments, but that was “not nearly enough to limit warming to less than 2°C”. Neither, for that matter, is it certain that 2.0ºC is a safe limit, with other studies showing that profound dislocations—like rising shorelines and drowning island states—will occur even before we get there, prompting small island states and others to press for a lower global target of 1.5ºC warming.
But the difference between aspiration and accomplishment—and what’s actually needed—is rendered shockingly apparent in a set of interactive charts published by the New York Times, based on new data from Climate Action Tracker.
Four offer view options to see the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that major emitters committed to at the Paris conference, what they are actually accomplishing and, most devastatingly, what reductions would actually be necessary to achieve the Paris goal. A fifth shows the same prognosis for the globe.
The upshot: We are not doing well. China and India are both projected to more than achieve their Paris goals for 2030, while the analysis shows the United States falling short (in contrast to some other discussion this week at the Bonn climate conference). And the range of the European Union’s forecast emissions suggests the continent is more likely to miss its target than (just) touch it.
In fact, “no major industrialized country is currently on track to fulfill its pledge,” the Times observes. “Not the European Union. Not Canada. Not Japan. And not the United States,” where Donald Trump “is still planning to leave the Paris agreement by 2020”.
And as the first chart in the series makes clear, even on the best-case, ‘low’ emissions track, in which every nation on Earth meets its Paris commitment, humanity still doesn’t reduce its carbon emissions to a range that offers a chance of keeping the planet’s warming inside the global community’s goal. [In fairness, this isn’t new, either. Negotiators arriving in Paris two years ago knew they wouldn’t hit a 2.0°C or 1.5°C target in one shot. That’s why this year’s UN climate conference is placing so much emphasis on a process for “raising ambition” for faster, deeper carbon cuts.]
Observes the Times: “Even if governments take further steps to meet their individual pledges, the world will still be on pace to warm well in excess of 2.0ºC over preindustrial levels, the threshold world leaders vowed to avoid because they deemed it unacceptably risky.”
“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” warned Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.