More than three-quarters of countries have indicated they will make stronger commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change by the end of 2020, despite the economic strain of the coronavirus pandemic, a new tracker showed recently. 151 governments have confirmed their intention to meet a U.N. deadline to raise their targets to cut planet-warming emissions over the next decade. Of those, 120 nations affirmed they would submit updated climate action plans since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, suggesting they are aiming for a green recovery, the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) noted.
“The lion’s share of nations have committed to deliver on Paris Agreement obligations this year, with stronger 2030 climate targets,” said Shahab Uddin, environment minister of Bangladesh, which is currently chairing the CVF. “But we are still not sure of their delivery, strength and effort. Weak ambition has turned up the planet’s pressure cooker to the limit and threatens our very right to survival,” he added. Those that have committed to deliver stronger climate plans in 2020 include the 48 members of the CVF from across Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, as well as the European Union, the Alliance of the Small Island States and the least-developed countries. Laggard countries, according to the tracker, include Brazil, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, host of the delayed U.N. climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021. So far London has said only that it will deliver its new plan “well ahead” of COP26.
The United States is currently out of the Paris pact after climate-change sceptic Donald Trump withdrew from it earlier this month. President-elect Joe Biden has said, however, that he will rejoin the accord when he takes power in late January and his government is expected to submit a stronger climate plan with a 2030 emissions-cutting target before the COP26 conference.
China, the world’s top emitter of carbon, which in 2019 released nearly double the emissions of the US with almost zero coal power plants. The significant new announcement in a virtual address to the 75th UN General Assembly recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would deliver a stronger emissions reduction target, peak emissions before 2030 and strive to reach carbon neutrality before 2060. This is the first time President Xi has spoken of cutting emissions to net-zero. It raises the bar for other large emerging economies such as India, where the discussion of achieving carbon neutrality is in its infancy.
So far, 17 countries have delivered their revised nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, for the Paris Agreement – under which countries have promised to keep global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C. But only 13 of those contain better targets, the CVF said.