Countries around the world have committed to take action to bring their emissions in line with the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of keeping global warming well below 2C – and seeking to limit warming to 1.5C.
But the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a collaboration between Climate Analytics and New Climate Institute, has found many nations are unlikely to meet their pledges by 2030.
The independent scientific analysis rated the majority of countries’ policies as either “insufficient”, “highly insufficient” or “critically insufficient”. The UK’s policies were deemed “almost sufficient”.
Ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Sky News looks at how countries rank for CO2 emissions, what they have pledged to do (or their NDCs – nationally determined contributions), and how much of a change they will have to make to meet their own targets.
United Kingdom: almost achieving its ambitious goals
The UK was the 17th largest CO2 emitter in 2019, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, but has set ambitious climate targets ahead of the COP26 climate talks, which it will host in Glasgow.
It has pledged to decarbonise its power system by 2035 and achieve net zero – when the country will no longer contribute to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – by 2050.
However, the CAT warns the UK’s action needs to be “significantly ramped up” if it is to achieve its ambitions of staying compatible with 1.5C.
Of particular concern is the UK’s financial contributions, which fall short of the country’s fair share contribution to the $100bn goal and have fallen over the last five years.
The US: back on track with a new president
The second-largest emitter of CO2 in 2019, the USA is increasingly taking actions to address climate change as one of President Joe Biden’s main priorities following the tenure of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who withdrew the US from the Paris agreement. Mr Biden has since rejoined.
The president has set his government a goal of achieving net zero by 2050 and has directed his agencies and departments to enact climate-friendly policies and review the climate rollbacks of the previous four years.
“The contrast between this administration’s actions and intent on climate change could not be a bigger contrast with its predecessor,” the CAT report said.
But while Mr Biden’s administration has set more ambitious targets and plans, the CAT’s analysis suggests its emissions reduction target and provision of finance towards the fair share target are insufficient.
China: world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter’s policies ranked highly insufficient
China, the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter, has announced its intention to become carbon neutral before 2060, with a new NDC target and a new renewable energy capacity target.
However, China’s new NDC target is considered unambitious and therefore insufficient – if all countries followed China’s level of ambition it would lead to global warming of 3C.
Similarly, while China’s President Xi Jinping announced the country would strictly control coal generation until 2025 and then begin phasing it out, China’s current policies are considered insufficient to meet the Paris agreement’s 1.5C limit and more consistent with 3C global warming.
According to the CAT, China needs to cut its emissions as early as possible and decrease its consumption of coal and other fossil fuels at a much faster rate than currently planned.
India: overly focused on coal
India has responded to the coronavirus crisis by unveiling one of the largest stimulus packages in the world, which supports industries likely to have a negative impact on the environment, such as coal and thermal power.
Already the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter, its coal emissions are expected to increase from over 200 GW to almost 266 GW by around 2030, which is likely to increase the risk the country remains focused on fossil fuels and continues to harm areas of ecological significance.
India’s current targets and policies put it on course for 4C or more of warming, but the CAT says if it phases out old high-capacity power plants with lower efficiency and higher emissions and stopped any new coal additions, it could push itself towards 1.5C emissions.
The EU: must ensure measures are implemented by member states
The EU has strengthened its emissions reductions goal under the Paris Agreement with a “Green Deal” which pledges net zero emissions by 2050.
However the CAT says the EU must do more to accelerate the phase-out of coal and increase finance for climate action abroad, as well as go beyond the current 55% by 2030 emissions reduction goal.
The EU will also have to ensure climate policy measures adopted in Brussels are implemented by individual member states, which have enacted policies in various ways so far.
Many EU nations do not have a coal phase-out plan by 2030, while others are planning to replace coal with natural gas, which will hold the EU back from achieving its goal.
Russia: branded critically insufficient
The climate policies of Russia, the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter, have been branded critically insufficient by the CAT.
Its report said Russia’s climate policies and commitments “reflect minimal to no action and are not at all consistent with the Paris Agreement”.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. A spokesperson insisted climate change was an “important” priority in Russia.
The Gambia: a focus on renewable technologies means it is on the right track
The Gambia is the only country to have received a “1.5C Paris Agreement compatible” rating from the CAT.
The African nation has pinned its climate strategy on the update of renewable energy technologies.
However, the report said the country’s “ambitious conditional emissions reduction target” would reduce its emissions, but its current policies “are not on track to meet this target.” The report recommends the country implements “more stringent policies” to meet its target and says it will need “additional support” to do so.
Thailand: weak performance despite good intentions
Thailand’s climate performance is “weak despite some good intentions,” according to the CAT, which rated its climate policies “critically insufficient”.
The Asian country’s shift from a dependency on coal to natural gas over the next two decades will lower overall emissions but will contribute to fossil-fuel lock-in and delay decarbonisation efforts.
Saudi Arabia: too slow in diversifying away from its oil-based economy
Saudi Arabia has been slow to diversify away from its oil-based economy and has few climate policies in place.
While the government announced a renewable energy target of achieving 27.3 GW by 2023 and 57.8 GW by 2030, progress has been slow with only around 0.4 GW of renewable energy capacity installed by 2019.
Iran: work to do
Iran’s is one of the few countries that has not ratified the Paris Agreement.
Its climate policy developments have slowed in recent years as it battles with international sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. Although it has reduced its oil production and exports, some production has been diverted to domestic consumption.
Canada: feeling the impact of the climate crisis
Although Canada has recently seen the impact of the climate crisis, with deadly heat waves and devastating forest fires on its west coast, its climate policy developments are considered “highly insufficient”.
The country’s 2030 emissions reduction target is consistent with 2C warming, though its current policies are not enough to achieve the target and are in line with 4C warning, according to the CAT.
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Mexico: policies lead to rising rather than falling emissions
Mexico’s plans have been described as “highly insufficient” as they will lead to rising emissions.
Its government published a bill during the pandemic that would effectively halt private renewable energy investment and instead prioritise the government’s ageing fossil fuel-fired power plants.
Brazil: increased deforestation is leading to higher emissions
Brazil has been rolling back its forest protection policies, allowing for even higher deforestation rates and pushing up emissions from deforestation after more than a decade of decline.
The CAT suggests President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration has used the pandemic to accelerate and distract attention from its rollback of environmental regulations.
Australia: ramping up its ‘gas-fired recovery’
Australia has chosen to increase its “gas-fired recovery” over a green economic recovery and has refused to increase its 2030 domestic emissions target.
Its government’s budget allocates large sums of money to gas infrastructure projects and a gas-fired power station, though it gives no new support for renewable energy or electric vehicles.
New Zealand: has a net zero goal enshrined in law, but falls short
New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to have enshrined its net zero emissions by 2050 goal in law, though its short-term policies are not in line with its ambition.
Its net zero emissions goal exempts methane from agriculture and waste, which account for over 40% of the country’s emissions, leading the CAT to rate it as “highly insufficient”.
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