Climate pledges not enough to keep the world safe, report states

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 4 minutes
21 August 2015

LONDON: Climate pledges that countries have submitted so far are an improvement compared to the ‘business as usual’ trajectory of their emissions, but they are not enough to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change.

The conclusion comes from a paper just released by the Grantham Institute, which analyzes the implications for greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 from the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by 46 countries by July, 20.

That means the recent submission from Australia – and some more ambitious one announced but not yet submitted, such as Brazil –  have not been included in the report.

“In very simple terms, an INDC lays out the climate targets and actions a country is willing to commit to beyond 2020, as part of a new global climate deal,” Damian Ryan, Head of International Policy, The Climate Group, explains. “Such targets and actions could include economy wide emission targets, fuel efficiency standards, improved building codes or policies that support low carbon investment.

“While the product of a long and difficult negotiating process, INDCs are not a final or binding commitment. As the word ‘intended’ underlines, they are a conditional offering from countries ahead of the Paris climate conference. In this sense, they represent a floor for climate action ambition, rather than a ceiling and – in theory – allow for upward adjustment before and in Paris.”


The paper from the Grantham Institute is a ‘progress check’ on the level of ambition of the INDCs lodged so far – but doesn’t evaluate the disappointing Australian INDC, officially submitted just a week ago.

Authors state that without the INDCs the world would produce 68 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) in 2030, while the climate pledges will lower this number between 56.9 and 59.1 GtCO2e.

However, the United Nations Environment Programme established that in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, without increasing the global temperature beyond 2 degrees Celsius, the world must emit a maximum of 36 GtCO2e (or 42 GtCO2e, if considering possible net negative emissions from power and industry).

The numbers show that even if the INDCs will bend the curve of global emissions by more than 10 GtCO2e, there is still a gap of about 15 GtCO2e if we want to avoid a 50-66% chance of hitting the 2 degree threshold.

The good news, however, is that there are still many countries that must submit their INDC – and represent about 40% of global emissions.

“What we need now is ambition,” underlines Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group. “The phrase so widely bandied around this year, but one that will continue to be needed right until the gavel hits. INDCs shouldn’t just be seen by countries as a tick-box exercise. They should be seen as a significant investment prospect for forward-looking businesses.

“Instead of countries just creating baseline targets, barely meeting the minimum, they should see this as a competitive opportunity. One where if they create robust policy through strong frameworks, they become more attractive to investors and open the option for further, stronger investment into their country.”

To achieve that, the next few months – and crucially, the next five years until the Paris agreement will kick in – will be fundamental.

The new paper calls national leaders to step up their level of ambition urgently, as well as invest in clean technology. They also suggest the pledges are revised through an independent mechanism, to increase their emission reductions in the years following Paris.

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by Ilario D'Amato

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