Commitments to halt greenhouse gas emissions are currently nowhere near halting the worst havoc of climate change in the coming years, a new report indicated on Wednesday, as world leaders prepare to haggle over what action to take and who will pay for it.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that even if countries met their commitments – which are still very large – this would only reduce fossil fuel emissions by 40 percent by 2050.
That means a temperature rise of about 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 – a figure that the United Nations recently said would be “catastrophic” for the planet and all its inhabitants.
Will Stephen, a climate expert at the Australian National University, said the IEA report shows that the current target of “net zero emissions” by 2050 – as many countries commit – is simply too little and too late.
“Now we have to move very quickly and decisively towards renewable energy. I think we really need to focus on 2030, and I think globally we need to cut emissions by 50 percent – cut them in half – in this decade if we want to have a chance of sustaining to a temperature rise of less than two degrees Celsius,” Stephen told Al Jazeera.
“This is really a tough time. It will take a lot of investment, but it has to happen now. We can’t simply talk about it as something down the road.”
Low Emission Revolution
In the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, countries set a target to stay below 2°C (3.6°F), preferably below 1.5°C (2.7°F), above pre-industrial levels.
If not, the consensus is that extreme weather, including droughts and floods, will become more common, sea levels will rise, Arctic ice will decrease, and many plants and animals will not be able to survive.
The International Energy Agency noted that fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil accounted for nearly 80 percent of the world’s energy supply in 2020, while renewables made up only 12 percent.
“The low-emissions revolution is long overdue,” the report said.
He called for a massive expansion of clean energy generation, specifically naming wind and solar power. The International Energy Agency has warned that renewables – such as solar, wind, hydro and bioenergy – need to account for a much larger share in energy investment, which must triple by the end of the decade if the world is to hope to combat climate change effectively. .
The International Energy Agency has indicated that renewables will account for more than two-thirds of investment in new energy capacity this year, but significant gains in coal and oil use have caused the second-largest annual increase in climate-change carbon emissions.
“An unmistakable sign”
The report comes shortly before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12.
He described the Glasgow meeting as an “opportunity to provide” an unequivocal signal “to accelerate the transition to clean energy around the world”.
Major emitters, including China, India and Saudi Arabia – which produce about a third of global emissions – have yet to advance emissions reduction targets, despite mounting pressure to do so ahead of the UN’s COP26 climate summit.
But developed nations — responsible for pumping most emissions into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution — must pay and assist developing countries with tens of billions of dollars annually to help adapt to climate catastrophes and transform fossil-fuel-driven economies.
“Developed countries must rapidly increase their climate funding,” said Claire Faison, a climate policy expert at Climate Analytics, a Berlin-based nonprofit organization.
Current pledges to reduce emissions and net-zero commitments put the world on a path of about 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century, Faison said. “This is terrifying given the effects we are already seeing at 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit),” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Analysts said securing more ambitious plans to cut emissions and providing funding to put them into practice is critical at COP26.
He described the conference as the last chance to mobilize the collective effort needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times – or face the worst consequences of climate change.
Achieving the 1.5°C target will not prevent deterioration of extreme weather conditions or rise in sea levels, but it is seen as vital to avoiding unbridled impacts on humans and the planet, including widespread hunger, mass migration, and general chaos.
The United Nations Climate Science Panel has said emissions of heating the planet must fall 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, then reach net zero by mid-century to have a good chance of keeping warming at 1.5°C.
A 25 percent reduction is needed this decade to limit planetary heating to two degrees Celsius, the highest ceiling in the Paris Agreement.
But a report in September by the UN Climate Change Panel, which assessed climate action plans from 113 countries submitted by July, said the commitments would cut greenhouse gas emissions by just 12 percent by 2030.