Major economies drag their feet as nations gather for climate talks
Of the eight major economies that account for 67% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, only Europe is gearing up to extend its Paris Agreement commitment after the European Parliament announced a climate emergency Thursday.
Incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to call for EU member states to cut carbon emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2030, up from a current 40% reduction target.
But ahead of the COP25 climate talks in Madrid starting Monday, climate scientists say around 75% of current national plans are inadequate to put the globe on a path that meets the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.
According to Robert Watson, former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world is on a trajectory of 3-4 degrees Celsius warming, with devastating consequences for sea levels, food security and mass displacement of people.
Using the World Bank’s 2030 average abatement cost of $75/mt for CO₂, the cost of global net zero emissions would be $3.46 trillion, S&P Global Platts calculates.
This cost could be less if countries made full use of global emission trading, which is to be discussed in Madrid.
According to industry group IETA, trading could half the cost of abatement.
While major economies are yet to commit to extending Paris Agreement commitments, more than 70 countries, 10 regions and 102 cities, including California, New York State, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, have committed to work towards net zero emissions status by 2050, according to the UN.
Data gathered by Platts show the vast majority of emissions are focused on energy and transport, where cleaner technologies already exist and, in electricity generation at least, the costs are reaching grid parity after 20 years of support.
“Unless in the next one or two years countries double or triple their pledges and fully implement them, we won’t meet Paris, and we will be on a pathway of greater than 2 degrees Celsius with profoundly negative consequences,” Watson told the BBC on Wednesday.
“When the US pulls out it will make it harder to make 2 degrees, while sending the signal to the rest of the world that, if one of the richest counties can’t be bothered, why should anybody else?,” Watson said.
More than 190 nations will meet for the next two weeks in Madrid in a bid to agree the rules that will govern the Paris Agreement.
In particular, nations are seeking agreement on an international emissions trading system and a new market mechanism to drive emissions reduction projects around the world.
COP25 — the 25th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change — should complete the task of implementing the 2015 Paris treaty that sets the course of climate action for the period after 2020, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
Countries are preparing to present updated climate pledges to next year’s summit in Glasgow, but pressure is growing on them to begin showing ambition now.