New China, India climate plans can limit global warming to under 2 deg C for the first time

Members of the Red Rebel Brigade, a performing troupe of activists, perform on the sidelines of the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow. PHOTO: AFP

GLASGOW - New climate pledges made by China and India - among the top three producers of planet-warming greenhouse gases - have for the first time set the world on a path to reducing planetary heating to under 2 deg C.

Research published on Wednesday (Nov 3) by Climate Resource - a Melbourne-based research start-up - showed that if all 194 countries fulfil the pledges they made under the Paris Agreement, the world stands a good chance of limiting warming to 1.9 deg C above pre-industrial levels.

This is within the 2 deg C target outlined under the 2015 Paris Agreement, but still falls short of the 1.5 deg C threshold that climate scientists say will help countries avoid experiencing harsher climate impact.

Every degree of warming could increase the severity of climate impacts such as extreme weather events, wildfires and more intense storms.

Said the researchers in a statement: "The major changes that bring projected warming below the significant benchmark of 2 deg C are China's new (climate pledge) and India's new announcement at COP26, both featuring net-zero emission targets by 2060 and 2070, respectively."

In October, China - the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - released its national plan detailing how it intended to achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060. It did so just days before the COP26 climate talks began in Glasgow.

As for India, which is the world's third largest emitter after the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during COP26 that the country will become carbon neutral by the year 2070 - becoming the last of the world's major carbon polluters to announce a net-zero target.

Mr Modi also announced that the carbon intensity of India's economy - the amount of goods produced per unit of energy - would be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030. The previous goal was 35 per cent.

Added the researchers: "Overall, 11 countries updated their nationally determined contributions since Oct 18, our pre-COP26 comparison point."

Nationally determined contributions refer to climate pledges that countries make under the Paris Agreement, which entails new pledges to be submitted every five years. The first round of pledges was made in 2015.

This year's conference - which was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic - marks the second round of submissions from countries. Countries are expected to collectively pledge much more ambitious emissions reductions.

In an analysis of submitted NDCs in September, the UN said the pledges still put the world on a path to warming by 2.7 deg C by the end of the century.

But the researchers caution that it is still too soon to rejoice.

"The temperature projections obviously hinge on the assumption that the pledges are going to be underpinned by respective climate, energy and land use policies and actions," they said, citing Australia's net-zero by 2050 pledge as being "hollow" since there are no clear policies guiding this implementation.

"Without climate policies, sectoral targets and a change of course, the 2050 net-zero target won't come about," they said. "And 1.9 deg C won't be achieved without a proper implementation of the pledges."

At COP26, countries will further negotiate on the rules that will guide the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in areas such as climate finance that will help developing countries cut their emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Nov 3 also marked Finance Day at the climate summit, where finance ministers, businesses and investors gathered to discuss how the financial sector could deploy the investment needed to help countries reach their net-zero by 2050 targets.

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