Climate action plans will significantly slow warming, UNFCCC says

30th October 2015

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National plans to cut emissions will restrain global temperature growth by around one third between 2010 and 2030 compared to the period 1990-2010, according to an official analysis.

The UNFCCC today released a report assessing the collective impact of the 119 intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) that had been submitted ahead of the Paris climate summit (COP21) by the beginning of October.

The plans cover 146 countries and 86% of greenhouse-gas emissions, four times more than the amount covered by the first phase of the Kyoto protocol, the UNFCCC said. The INDCs outline policies, programmes and actions, including decarbonising energy supply, increasing energy efficiency, and improving land management, urban planning and transport.

According to the UNFCCC, the plans will bring global average emissions per capita down by as much as 8% in 2025 and 9% by 2030.

UNFCCC executive secretary Christina Figueres said: "Fully implemented, these plans together begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions: as a floor they provide a foundation upon which ever higher ambition can be built.

"I am confident that these INDCs are not the final word in what countries are ready to do and achieve over time."

Several organisations, such as the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, have independently analysed the INDCs and have concluded that the action outlined will not be enough to keep global temperature rise to 2°C, the level scientists believe needs to be achieved to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Speaking at a Chatham House conference on climate change on Monday, Figueres said that although the plans were not enough to reach the 2°C target, she believed many countries would be able to overachieve on what they have pledged. "Most countries are being very conservative, this is the first time they are coming out internationally on their plans."

A key part of any deal in Paris will be a mechanism to regularly review achievements against the INDCs and subsequently increase the ambition of countries' action over time.

The UNFCCC also found:

  • All industrialised country INDCs and many developing country plans are unconditional. Conditional contributions, where some developing countries have asked for finance or technology support in return for additional mitigation action, represent about 25% of emission reductions. Some countries have said they reserve the right to revise their INDC in the light of an international agreement.
  • All INDCs cover carbon dioxide (CO2) and many also cover methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases.
  • Over half the INDCs include a long-term perspective on the transition toward economic growth based on low-emission, high-resilience development. Many plans foresee near climate neutrality by 2050, or a point where remaining human emissions are absorbed by natural systems, stored or used.
  • 100 plans include measures to reduce vulnerability and build resilience. Countries with an adaptation component in their INDCS are most concerned about water resources, agriculture, health, ecosystems and forestry.

Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate programme at the World Resources Institute said that all countries have now got much stronger plans than they did before they developed their INDCs.

However, she added that a deal in Paris must include a clear mandate for countries to ramp up their commitments after the COP21 talks are over. "Despite the unprecedented level of effort, this report finds that current commitments are not yet sufficient to meet what the world needs."

WWF-UK's chief adviser on climate change Dr Stephen Cornelius said: "While there has been a lot of progress over the last year, it is still insufficient to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C that the scientific evidence demands.

"The Paris climate deal must include ways to encourage countries to take on tougher emissions targets. These targets must be fair and fit the scientific evidence in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."


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