‘Far from satisfactory’: 80 countries miss UN deadline for delivering beefed-up climate pledges
13th August 2021 by Emma Goring
15 nations submitted fresh climate plans in support of Paris Agreement last week, but just under half of signatories have missed UN deadline.
Pressure is mounting on large emitting nations such as China and India to come forward with beefed-up climate plans ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit in November, after the UN confirmed just under half of Paris Agreement signatories failed to meet last week’s deadline for publishing updated national climate strategies.
Countries had until Friday to submit enhanced plans – known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the UN jargon – for inclusion in the UNFCCC’s report on global climate progress, which is being drawn up for publication ahead of the crucial Glasgow Summit. But only 110 of the near 200 Paris Agreement signatories formally submitted updated plans ahead of the deadline, and several of these new strategies included only negligible improvements on the plans published at the Paris Summit in 2015.
Last week saw a flurry of smaller countries officially submit their new, enhanced Paris Agreement pledges – including Israel, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Namibia, Malaysia, and Malawi – but fresh national climate plans remain absent from a raft of key emitters such as China, India, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia.
Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, signatories are expected to submit fresh NDCs every five years. It forms part a mechanism in the original treaty designed to accelerate action towards limiting global warming to well below 2C and preferably 1.5C by the end of the century. But based on current NDCs the world is on track for around 3C of warming with experts warning far more action is urgently needed to avoid significantly overshooting the Paris Agreement’s overarching temperature goals and putting the world on track to deliver net zero emissions during the second half of the century.
As host of COP26 in November, the UK is under pressure to ensure all countries signed up to the treaty increase their climate ambition ahead of the summit, while also delivering breakthroughs on a range of related issues – such as climate finance pledges and rules for new carbon offset markets.
As such the failure of a number of major emitters to deliver enhanced climate plans and commitments ahead of Friday’s deadline therefore presents a significant challenge for the UN process and hopes of a successful summit in Glasgow. Moreover, a number of pledges submitted by nations over the past year – such as from Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, and Australia – have met criticism for failing to display any significant uptick in ambition compared to previous pledges.
UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa welcomed the fresh commitments from 15 countries ahead of Friday’s deadline, but warned that it was “still far from satisfactory” that only 58 per cent of Paris Agreement signatories had met the cut-off date.
“Recent extreme heat waves, droughts and floods across the globe are a dire warning that much more needs to be done, and much more quickly, to change our current pathway. This can only be achieved through more ambitious NDCs,” she said in a statement on Saturday.
The failure of so many nations to meet the UN’s cut off point on Friday comes despite the COP26 Summit having been delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and places greater pressure on pre-summit negotiations and meetings in the final months leading up to November.
“The reduction of emissions needs to be a consistent, cumulative process,” added Espinosa. “I call on those countries that were unable to meet this deadline to redouble their efforts and honour their commitment under the Paris Agreement to renew or update their NDCs. I also encourage those who have submitted their NDCs to continue reviewing and enhancing their level of ambition. By doing so, they will contribute to the preservation of our planet and the well-being of people around the world.”
The UK is among nations to have submitted an enhanced NDC ahead of the UN deadline, having late last year ramped up its 2030 target to cut emissions by 68 per cent below 1990 levels, in addition to targeting a 78 per cent cut by 2035. As COP26 host it is now pressing other nations to follow suit.
Alok Sharma, COP26 President-designate, welcomed the fresh climate plans submitted by 15 nations last week, and called on all Paris Agreement parties “to follow this example by submitting enhanced 2030 commitments” ahead of the November summit.
The latest developments come amidst reports over the weekend that the preparations for COP26 are being hampered by turf wars within Whitehall and arguments over funding. The Sunday Times reported that COP26 President Alok Sharma was “furious” with Number 10’s COP26 comms chief Allegra Stratton over a series of media interventions, which were widely mocked for their focus on the small actions households can take to curb their emissions such as not rinsing plates before putting them in the dishwasher. “Washing plates has set our climate change messaging back a year,” one source told the paper.
Meanwhile, plans for a global broadcast on the climate crisis are said to be under threat unless increased corporate support can be secured to fund the project – a stand off that mirrors the repeated delays to critical climate policy and spending plans that have fuelled fears that even in countries with net zero targets in place not enough is being done to accelerate decarbonisation efforts.