According to the UN's Environment Programme (UNEP), national plans to reduce carbon pollution has so far just amounted to "weak promises, not yet delivered". The UN urged all 193 member states to step up their climate commitments – especially rich nations, which are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. "The G20 countries are responsible for 78 percent of all emissions so the ‘to do item’ lies with them," Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, told Al Jazeera. "The developed countries have a special responsibility to really step up, but actually everyone does – all 193 member states."
But much of the pledged action by nations is being delayed until 2030, which according to scientists will be too late to halt the worst effects of climate change. "Action is needed now," Andersen explained. Current climate promises will result in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by only 7.5 percent by 2030. But in order to reach the Paris Agreement's target of 1.5-degree Celsius warming by 2100, a reduction of 55 percent by 2030 is required – current reduction plans need to increase seven times more if we are going to have a chance of averting the worst climate effects.
"If there is no meaningful reduction of emissions in the next decade, we will have lost forever the possibility to reach 1.5 degrees," U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a press briefing. The UN chief called the weak reduction plans a leadership failure. "This report is another thundering wake-up call. How many do we need? The emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap," Guterres told a press briefing. "The era of half measures and hollow promises must end. The time for closing the leadership gap must begin in Glasgow."
COP26 will open in Glasgow next week, and this will be our very last chance - unless some sort of miracle happens - to put the world on track to limit global warming to 1.5-degree Celsius. So far, it's not looking good, with some world leaders being reluctant to attend or even refusing to show up at the conference. Either way, the two-week-long conference will show us if our world leaders are willing to commit to more ambitious climate plans - or if they will fail us and cause irrevocable and devastating consequences for humanity.
Photo by Matt Palmer.