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Report Slams COP26 Credibility Gap

World’s top climate scientists say the planet is heading towards disaster.

Despite COP26’s optimistic targets, a new report puts the planet on track for a catastrophic temperature rise. This is projected to be more than 2.4C. The Glasgow summit is seen as crucial for curbing climate change. But the prediction contrasts with optimism at the UN meeting last week, following a series of big announcements.

Mind the Gap

Research from the world’s top climate analysis coalition highlighted the “massive credibility gap” between government pledges and action up to 2030 and its outcomes. The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) group said current COP26 commitments would mean a 2.4C rise by the end of the century.

The report eschewed “baby steps” in favour of “emergency mode. ” It also recommended an annual COP creating short-term targets as well as the main summits. It made it clear that whilst CO2 emissions need to halve by 2030 to deliver the 1.5C decrease, based on current targets set at COP26, the gap would only close by 15-17%. Professor Niklas Hohne, a Climate Action Tracker research partner, said, “If the massive 2030 gap cannot be narrowed in Glasgow, governments must agree to come back next year, by COP27, with new and stronger targets.” He also warned, “While the wave of net-zero targets appears like remarkable news, we can’t sit back and relax. All countries must urgently look at what more they can do.”

Good Cop Bad Cop

The report called out numerous countries for pledges that were unlikely to have a real impact. These included India, Australia, and Brazil. The latter was accused of targets going backward.  Although 140 countries covering 90% of global emissions have announced long-term net-zero goals, the experts were clear these needed clear action plans in the short term.

“The vast majority of 2030 actions and targets are inconsistent with net-zero goals: there’s a nearly one-degree gap between government current policies and their net-zero goals,” climate scientist and CAT partner, Bill Hare, explained. “It’s all very well for leaders to claim they have a net-zero target, but if they have no plans as to how to get there, and their 2030 targets are as low as so many of them are, then frankly, these net-zero targets are just lip service to real climate action.

The report looked at the new more ambitious 2030 targets submitted by countries in the run-up to Glasgow. Based on what countries have put on the table for 2030, the world is set to warm by 2.4C by 2100. According to the experts, the most optimistic scenario `- a 2,1C rise `- would require the US 2050 net zero goal and China’s 2060 carbon neutrality target to be met. If every country implemented their long-term net zeroes, then 1.8C could be possible. 

A Little Less Conversation

However, CAT said the current “appalling outlook” was down to continuing coal consumption. This is in spite of warnings the fossil fuel must be phased out globally by 2040. COP26 has seen announcements on cutting methane and halting deforestation, but the analysis said these must go beyond existing national targets to have an impact. Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland, said: “To put it bluntly, what has been pledged so far in Glasgow is not yet enough to prevent the world from warming more than 1.5C – putting people and nature in peril. Climate pledges are not the same as climate action and it’s clear the biggest gap lies in real action to cut emissions this decade.”

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