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Worrying trends as UN publishes updated NDC Synthesis Report

UN Climate Change on Monday, October 25, 2021 published an update to the synthesis of climate action plans as communicated in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The update of key findings of the NDC Synthesis Report confirms the overall trends identified by the full report, which was released on September 17, 2021.

patricia espinosa
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC

The Synthesis Report was requested by Parties to the Paris Agreement to assist them in assessing the progress of climate action ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. This update of the Synthesis Report is being provided to ensure that Parties have the latest information to consider at COP26.

The update of the report synthesises information from the 165 latest available NDCs, representing all 192 Parties to the Paris Agreement, including the 116 new or updated NDCs communicated by 143 Parties as on October 12, 2021, compared to 86 new or updated NDCs covered by the September report.

The information received confirms that the updated or new climate action plans can be effective in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over time. For the group of 143 Parties that submitted new or updated NDCs, total GHG emissions are estimated to be about 9% below the 2010 level by 2030. Further, within that group, some 71 Parties communicated a carbon neutrality goal around mid-century. The report finds that these Parties’ total GHG emission level could be 83–88% lower in 2050 than in 2019.

However, the updated report also confirms that for all available NDCs of all 192 Parties taken together, a sizable increase, of about 16%, in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 is anticipated. Comparison to the latest findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that such an increase, unless changed quickly, may lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7°C by the end of the century.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, said: “I thank and congratulate all Parties that have submitted a new or updated NDC since the publication of the full report in September. These NDCs clearly represent a commitment to acting on climate change.”

“At the same time, the message from this update is loud and clear: Parties must urgently redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond the Paris Agreement’s goal of well below 2C – ideally 1.5C – by the end of the century. Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the GHG emissions in the atmosphere. This updated report unfortunately confirms the trend already indicated in the full Synthesis Report, which is that we are nowhere near where science says we should be,” she cautioned.

The IPCC has estimated that limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5C requires a reduction of CO2 emissions of 45% in 2030 or a 25% reduction by 2030 to limit warming to 2C. If emissions are not reduced by 2030, they will need to be substantially reduced thereafter to compensate for the slow start on the path to net zero emissions, but likely at a higher cost.

Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 President, said the report underlined why countries need to show ambitious climate action at COP26.

“This latest report from the UNFCCC makes clear, to protect the world from the most devastating impacts of climate change, countries must take more ambitious action on emissions, and they must act now.” 

“If countries deliver on their 2030 NDCs and net zero commitments which have been announced by mid-October, we will be heading towards average global temperature rises of just above 2C. Analysis suggests the commitments made in Paris would have capped the rise in temperature to below 4C.”

“So there has been progress, but not enough. That is why we especially need the biggest emitters, the G20 nations, to come forward with stronger commitments if we are to keep 1.5c in reach over this critical decade. Glasgow must launch a decade of ever-increasing ambition. At COP26 we must come together for ourselves, future generations and our planet,” he underlined.

Espinosa clarified that Parties can submit NDCs or update already submitted NDCs at any time, including during COP26.

“I again urge all Parties that have not yet done so to submit new or updated NDCs. But those Parties that have already made submissions also have the opportunity to revisit their NDCs to increase their level of ambition,” Ms. Espinosa said.

Many NDCs from developing countries contain more ambitious conditional commitments to reduce emissions, which can only be implemented with access to enhanced financial resources and other support. The report suggests that the full implementation of these components could allow for global emissions to peak before 2030.

“This underscores that developing countries need financial, technological and capacity-building support to increase their level of ambition, both with respect to reducing emissions, as well as in terms of building resilience to the effects of climate change. The pledge to mobilize USD 100 billion annually by 2020 is key for enhancing climate action by developing countries. I call on developed countries to fulfill this pledge in full at COP26,” Ms. Espinosa said. 

The majority of Parties provided information on the intention to make use of voluntary cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which refers to market mechanisms and non-market approaches. Almost all of them indicated that they plan to use at least one type of cooperation mechanism or approach.

“This shows the need for finalising the Paris Agreement’s rule book as it relates to market and non-market approaches. Voluntary cooperation can significantly boost both action and ambition,” Mr. Sharma explained. 

“COP26 needs to settle the details of how these mechanisms will function in a manner that both promotes action and ensures environmental integrity,” he added.  

COP26 will open in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31, 2021 and run for two weeks up to November 12, 2021.

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