Government plans reduce projected global temperature rise

It’s no understatement to say that the actions being legislated into effect from this moment onwards will have a material impact on life on Earth over the coming 80 years.

As we have previously written about, the Paris Agreement is one of the greatest tools countries have to mitigate the risks posed by climate change, encouraging governments to sign up to country-specific climate targets. The US has rejoined the Agreement this year, having previously left it under the Trump administration.

Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has been watching what plans countries have made, including the US, and has some positive findings, suggesting it is possible to change course and limit a rise in global temperatures, but only if countries act in concert.

It is clear the Paris Agreement is driving change, spurring governments into adopting stronger targets, but there is still some way to go…

– Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, partner organisation to CAT

Dialling down the heat

When measured versus pre-industrial global temperature levels, the Paris Agreement encourages signatory countries to keep temperatures from deviating by as little as two degrees celsius above that baseline, and if possible, limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. This is enforced by each country through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Keeping this rise below two degrees may sound like a bit of light tinkering of a thermostat with little by way of material difference to our lives, but it could mean the difference between coral reefs continuing to exist or going extinct by the end of the current century, as we explored when we wrote about the wonders of these wonderful aquatic organisms.

CAT’s latest assessment of the situation suggests that the raft of proposals that make up existing Paris Agreement pledges will result in a temperature rise of 2.4 degrees, down from 2.6 degrees as initially reported earlier in the year. While it doesn’t mean the environment is by any means safe, this projected 0.2-degree reduction suggests that the actions we take collectively can give us some cause for hope in the future.

Hard work lies ahead

In its latest report, CAT suggests that most of the hard work to prevent a damaging rise in global temperatures must be in full swing by between 2030 and 2050, with carbon emissions peaking no later than the 2030s.

One of the biggest rays of light in the CAT report is the revelation that the number of countries considering or adopting net zero carbon targets has grown to include a list of as many as 131 countries, who are collectively responsible for 73 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If all countries were to achieve net zero targets and adopt bolder NDCs over the coming decades, a global temperature rise could be contained at two degrees, 0.1 degrees lower than previously expected.

This improvement in expectations using CAT’s ‘optimistic’ net-zero target success scenario is down to more far-reaching 2030 Paris Agreement targets, rather than the addition of new countries dedicating their time to going carbon-free. It’s not so much a case of how many of us agree to reduce emissions, but whether anyone actually carries it out in practice, for the rest to follow.

Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, a partner organisation to CAT, claimed: “It is clear the Paris Agreement is driving change, spurring governments into adopting stronger targets, but there is still some way to go, especially given that most governments don’t yet have policies in place to meet their pledges.”

Without any targets, existing policies will result in a global temperature rise of 2.9 degrees, reflecting the sense of urgency behind the CAT report. The US and Europe will be some of the biggest contributors to delivering a lower carbon future, but the likes of India, Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia are yet to announce stronger NDCs.

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