Climate change is real, and it is already wreaking havoc on the planet and interfering with the lives of its inhabitants. The five hottest years on record have occurred since 1997, and the 10 hottest years since 1990. Earth’s average temperature increased by 1 degree Fahrenheit to the highest level in the past four centuries. As a result, the oceans are warming and rising, and extreme weather events such as hurricanes and drought are increasing. Certain wildlife, such as the iconic polar bear, are at risk of extinction.
Something must be done to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That’s the threshold experts cite as the don’t-go-beyond mark to continue life as we know it. In December, world leaders will meet in Paris to hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Country commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are crucial to staying beneath the 2-degrees threshold. A new report by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assessed the impact of over 140 national climate action plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The assessment found that together the climate action plans can “dramatically” slow global GHG emissions. It also found that the collective impact of the INDCs will lead to a decrease in per-capita emissions over the coming 15 years.
The report assesses the collective impact of climate plans from 146 countries as of Oct. 1. That includes the EU, which is a single plan representing 28 countries, and all other developed countries. It includes three-quarters of developing countries under the UNFCCC.
Together, the 146 national plans cover 86 percent of global GHG emissions, which is nearly four times the level of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. All of the industrialized country INDCs are unconditional, as are many developing country INDCs. Conditional contributions only represent about 25 percent of the total range of emission reductions.
The INDCs will decrease global average emissions per capita by as much as 8 percent in 2025 and 9 percent in 2030, according to the report. The climate action plans make it possible and affordable to stay below a 2-degree temperature rise by 2030. They are expected to slow emissions growth by about a third between 2010 to 2030 and reduce emissions by about four gigatons by 2030, compared to pre-INDC levels. All INDCs cover carbon dioxide, and many also cover other GHGs, including methane and nitrous oxide.
There has been a “significant increase” in the number of countries taking climate action, according to the report. There has also been an increase in the number of countries that have moved from project/program/sector based actions towards economy-wide policies and objectives. All countries have “raised the ambition of their climate action included in their INDCs compared with efforts communicated for the pre-2020 period,” the report states.
Each of the focus areas of the LCTPi, which include renewable energy and energy efficiency, have a commitment to reduce GHG emissions in 2030 compared to business as usual (BAU). If that is achieved, the LCTPi would reduce GHG emissions by about 17 to 18 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2) a year by 2030 compared to BAU. And that could get the world 64 to 68 percent of the way towards a two degrees pathway compared to baseline emissions in 2030. In addition, the initiative could help channel $5 to $10 trillion of investment into low carbon economic sectors and potentially support 15 to 35 million jobs in the wider economy every year.
Businesses and countries working together can reduce the GHG emissions which are heating up the planet. That would be good for the planet and its billions of inhabitants.
Image credit: Flickr/martin
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.