Many countries’ climate promises ‘too unreliable’, according to international study

India and Saudi Arabia promise ‘zero emissions’ in the future, but in the meantime emit more greenhouse gases. For the first time, researchers have examined global climate promises, with worrying results.

Morton van Stel

It was agreed in Paris eight years ago, and has been ratified by many countries in the last few years. A ‘net zero’ emissions by the second half of this century is what 148 countries are now promising. But many of them still lack credible plans to do so, leaving the world in agony for even greater temperature rises.

That’s according to international research published on Thursday Science. For the first time, researchers examined the credibility of countries’ zero emissions pledges. Despite these pledges, India and Saudi Arabia’s emissions continue to rise with little room for change. Europe is on the right track.

Floods and food shortages

In the most optimistic scenario, the world is headed for about 1.7 degrees of warming. The result is in line with the hard limit of a maximum 2 degrees of warming from the Paris Agreement, although it is still above the target of 1.5 degrees. In a pessimistic scenario involving only firm and credible climate policy, the world is headed for 2.6 degrees of warming, and temperatures will continue to rise after 2100.

The researchers looked at the climate plans of 35 countries with the highest emissions, which account for 85 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union is considered as one country. They assessed credibility based on three criteria: whether the pledges are enshrined in law, whether a credible long-term policy plan is in place and whether the plans lead to emissions reductions over the next ten years.

The differences between countries are huge. The EU, UK and New Zealand received the highest scores, with their programs rated as ‘highly credible’. “Europe has a legitimate plan, emissions are already falling and projections for 2050 are actually net zero.”

The US and China scored the worst. For example, emissions are falling in the US, but climate ambitions are not enshrined in law. “If Republicans come to power after the election, they can reverse current climate policies.” Because of this, the long-term benefits of US President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate policy, for example through his deflationary legislation, are still unclear.

Draw the bill

Greenhouse gas emissions are also increasing in China. However, the country is making a significant catch-up in renewable energy. “Most investments in renewables are in China.”

For example, India and Saudi Arabia’s net zero pledges score poorly. “In India, for example, it’s not clear which emissions they want to reduce, whether it’s just CO2 or, for example, methane, a very potent greenhouse gas in the short term.”

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