Emissions Gap Report released ahead of UN Climate Change Conference shows vagueness of promises by countries

Since world is headed to global temperature rise of 2.7 degree Celsius and needs 55 per cent reduction in emissions in next 8 years, it cannot be achieved without clearly planned mitigation measures

CO2 emissions gap: UN report warns of 'collective failure'
CO2 emissions gap: UN report warns of 'collective failure'
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Dr Gyan Pathak

The Emissions Gap Report 2021 released just a few days ahead of the 26th edition of Conference of the Parties (COP26) clearly shows the vagueness of promises by countries and lack of transparency, clearly defined rules and target for actual reductions in emissions. As the pressure on India is being increased by the developed countries of the world with too high an expectation despite its better performance of promises, India must push for bringing all to a level playing field.

Since the world is on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7 degree Celsius, which is well above the target of 1.5 degree Celsius, and the world needs a 55 per cent reduction in emissions in the next eight years that cannot be achieved without clearly planned mitigation measures.

Moreover, many national climate plans delay action until after 2030 making the humanity to pay heavy cost thereafter. The report has warned that global carbon dioxide emissions are bouncing back to pre-COVID levels after unprecedented drop of 5.4 per cent in 2020, and concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere continue to rise.

The report finds that net zero pledges, if fully implemented, could make a big difference and bring down the predicted global temperature rise to 2.2 degree Celsius, still on the track to the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, so far these promises are “vague” and inconsistent with most 2030 national commitments, UNEP has warned.

A total of 49 countries plus the European Union have pledged a net zero target. This covers over half of global domestic greenhouse gas emissions, over half of global GDP and a third of the global population. Eleven targets are enshrined in law, covering 12 per cent of global emissions. Yet the NDCs submitted delay action until 2030, raising doubts over whether net zero pledges can be delivered, the report says. Moreover, although twelve G20 members have pledged a net zero target, ambiguity still surrounds the means of reaching the goal.

In the wake of imminent peril we face as a species, as UNEP’s Executive Director Inger Andersen has warned in the forward, India should put its weight behind her opinion that they need to make their net zero pledges more concrete, ensuring these commitments are included in NDCs, and action brought forward immediately.


The climate action so far has been characterized by weak promises, not yet delivered. If nations only implement unconditional NDCs as they stand, we are likely to it global warming of about 2.7 degree Celsius by end of the century. To get on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, the world needs to take an additional 28 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent off annual emissions by 2030.

The report has mentioned that G20 members account for close to 80 per cent of GHG emissions. Moreover, they as a group do not have policies in place to achieve even the NDCs, much less net zero, and are clearly not on track to achieve either their original or new 2030 pledges.

However, ten of G20 members, including India, are on track to achieve their previous NDCs, while seven are off track. Three members – India, the Russian Federation, and Turkey – are projected to reduce their emissions to levels at least 15 per cent lower than their previous unconditional NDC target levels under current policies, indicating that these countries have significant room for raising their NDC ambition.

However, India and Turkey were yet to submit their new or updated NDC, while the Russian Federation has submitted a new NDC that reduces emissions, but still results in higher emissions than implied by current policies. Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America are all assessed to require stronger policies to achieve even prior NDCs.

Many G20 members have adopted policies that have both positive and negative impact. Many have even planned and implementing fossil fuel extraction projects and coal fired power plants construction. They are moving forward with their plan while rolling back environmental regulations. Argentina, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia are in this category that are expected to emit more in 2030 than they did in 2020.

The report has found the announcements of long term net zero emissions by 50 parties promising that covers more than half of global emissions. However, these pledges show large ambiguities. It means a delay of 15-20 years. The targets are split almost entirely and equally between 2050 due to the European Union and United States of America and 2060 due to China’s pledge.

The existing targets also have ambiguities with respect to the inclusion of sectors and GHGs. The majority are furthermore unclear or undecided on the inclusion of emissions from international aviation and shipping and the use of international offsets.

The report also finds that few of G20 members’ NDC targets put emissions on a clear path towards net-zero pledges. There is an urgent need to back these pledges up with near-term targets and actions that give confidence that net-zero emissions can ultimately be achieved and the remaining carbon budget kept.

Given that India is an overachiever as per the report, it has a major role to play in COP26, not only by pushing for level playing field but also demanding for transparent, unambiguous, rule based action on mitigations measures to arrest the adverse effect of climate change. It is important because India is among one of the worst sufferers from heat wave, erratic weather, cyclones, floods and numerous others climate change related issues. India is only fourth largest emitter after China, United States of America, and European Union, and has millions of empty stomach to feed, and thus it is should demand for greater international support to achieve both the SDGs and net zero target.

(IPA Service)

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