The Truth About Climate Change

Questions 4 and 5

4. Are the current pledges by countries adequate to tackle climate change?

As part of the Paris Agreement, 162 pledges were submitted to the Climate Change Convention describing how each country intends to tackle climate change. These pledges cover 189 countries accounting for about 98 percent of global GHG emissions15.

Most of the INDCs include pledges on how countries plan to reduce GHG emissions and to adapt to climate change. Because for the first time most developing countries made these types of pledges, 83 percent of them are in part or entirely conditional to the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building, for their full implementation. 

Various research groups analyzed the collective impact of the INDCs16. These studies used different methodologies and criteria for their assessment17. Some studies, for example, include all unconditional and conditional INDCs, while others only include unconditional ones. Different assumptions were also used to harmonize the information included in the pledges submitted by countries, as well as to make projections for the rest of the century, beyond the 2030 timeframe of the INDCs. Thus, the conclusions from these studies on the collective impact of the INDCs vary.

All the studies agreed that the INDCs show a real increase in the commitment by countries to combat climate change. Collectively, pledges by countries to be undertaken between 2020 and 2030 contribute to lowering the global GHG emissions trajectory compared to the current path.  

Current pledges, however, are far from sufficient to put the world on a pathway to meet the 2ºC target18.

To stay below 2ºC, global GHG emissions should be reduced by 22 percent from current levels (of 54 GtCO2-eq) to reach 42 GtCO2-eq in 2030, as concluded by the IPCC and the UNEP Emissions Gap assessment19. However, if only unconditional pledges are implemented, global GHG emissions are expected to increase by six percent in 2030, reaching 56 GtCO2-eq (range 54-59). If unconditional and conditional pledges are fully implemented, global GHG emissions will remain at about the current level of 54 GtCO2-eq (range 52-57)20. The difference between the projected level of global GHG emissions in 2030 and what they should be to stay below 2ºC, or the emissions gap, is 14 GtCO2-eq (range 12-17)21, or 33 percent above the 2ºC pathway. This emissions gap is comparable to the annual emissions from the world’s energy production, which totaled 17 GtCO2-eq in 201022, to supply electricity, fuel and natural gas used by other sectors. As a reference, without the Paris Agreement pledges, global GHG emissions are projected to reach 65 GtCO2-eq (range 60-70)23 in 2030, or an increase of about 20 percent.

Moreover, the INDCs are legally non-binding pledges made at the international level. Pledges are subject to approval at the national level through policies, regulations and incentives for their implementation in each country. Thus, pledges may be changed, raising or reducing the overall GHG emission reduction targets.

 

5. Will a transition to renewable energy address climate change?

A transition to renewable energy for electricity generation is an important component to address climate change. However, a radical change in the way the world produces and uses energy (electricity, fuel and natural gas) is required.  

Currently, about 82 percent of the energy produced in the world is obtained by burning fossil fuels –31 percent oil, 29 percent coal and 22 percent natural gas24

Because energy is used by different sectors, the IPCC made a comprehensive analysis by sector to identify measures and policies to be implemented in the next 2-3 decades to transform the way energy is produced and used everywhere. Some examples include increasing the deployment of low-carbon energy for electricity generation25 (currently non-fossil fuel electricity generation is 30 percent –16 percent from hydropower, 5 percent from renewables and 11 percent from nuclear power26), increasing the energy efficiency in the industry sector27, promoting the conversion of vehicles to low-carbon fuels in the transport sector28 and including on-site renewable energy systems in existing and new buildings29. In addition, options were also assessed in the non-energy sector, including improving crop, water and livestock management and reducing deforestation in the agriculture, forestry and land use sector30.  

Several INDCs describe measures in various sectors, such as increasing the share of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, using fuel efficiency standards in the transport sector, improving crop and livestock production, establishing waste management and recycling programs and promoting the conservation and sustainable management of forests and reducing deforestation. More than half of the INDCs, however, only focus on measures in the energy sector, with some countries aiming at 100 percent renewable energy supply for the electricity sector31.

 Actions to reduce GHG emissions will have to be implemented in all sectors, and not just to transform the generation of electricity. Producing energy without burning fossil fuels (or decarbornizing the production of energy) will be critically important since world population is estimated to increase by 40 percent, to 10 billion by 205032, which in turn will double the demand for energy33, increase the demand for food, clean water, and other basic human needs.

Sources and references:

15. Climate Action Tracker
16. Studies on INDCs were developed by Climate Action Tracker, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, Climate Interactive, Danish Energy Agency, European Commission Joint Research Centre, the International Energy Agency, London School of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MILES Project Consortium, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, among others. The Synthesis Report on the aggregate effect of the INDCs by the Climate Change Convention (FCCC/CP/2015/7) and The Emissions Gap Report 2015 by UNEP summarize the research from these studies
17. World Resources Institute (2015): http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/11/insider-why-are-indc-studies-reaching-different-temperature-estimates
18. UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)
19. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 6 (2014) and UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)
20. UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)
21. UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)
22. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 1 (2014)
23. UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)
24. Key World Energy Statistics, International Energy Agency (2015)
25. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 6 (2014)
26. Key World Energy Statistics, International Energy Agency (2014)
27. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 10 (2014)
28. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 8 (2014)
29. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 9 (2014)
30. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 11 (2014)
31. Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the INDCs (FCCC/CP/2015/7) and UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)
32. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, United Nations Population Division (2015)
33. IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 7 (2014)

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