Cop26 emission pledges may limit global heating to below 2C


The pledges on greenhouse gas emissions on the table at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow would limit global temperature rises to below 2C, the first time the world has been on such a trajectory, according to research by the University of Melbourne. Plans by India, the world’s third biggest emitter, have made a sizeable difference to the global temperature estimate.

If its commitments and those of other nations at the talks are fulfilled, temperatures would probably rise by about 1.9C above pre-industrial levels. That would be lower than the 2C upper limit but higher than the 1.5C lower limit set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary and a veteran of the dramatic 2009 Copenhagen Cop, warned that much more needed to be done.

He told the Guardian: “Any progress is welcome but we need extreme caution about declaring success on the basis of vague and often vacuous net zero targets three or more decades hence. For example Australia has a 2050 net zero target but its 2030 plans are in line with 4 degrees of warming. There is a reason for the focus on halving emissions this decisive decade. It reflects the urgency, clarity and specificity we need to keep 1.5C alive. We cannot allow political leaders to shift the goalposts.”

Alok Sharma, the president of Cop26, said the new commitments represented important progress but that more would have to be done at this Cop to bring the 1.5C goal within reach.

Patricia Espinosa, the UN climate chief, added: “We have to work on how to address this gap, that’s the biggest challenge of this conference. But I have not heard anyone saying they do not want to go for 1.5C.”

The report’s author, Malte Meinshausen, an associate professor in climate science at Melbourne and a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the “momentous” shift in the projected global warming was largely triggered by recent improvements in India and China’s emission targets for 2030, as well as India’s commitment to net zero by 2070.

He said it was the first time the combined pledges and probable emissions paths of more than 190 countries had given a better than 50% chance of limiting warming to below 2C. But achieving the below-2C rise remained highly conditional and depended on countries mapping credible pathways to net zero as promised and developing nations receiving the climate finance they have called for to reach carbon neutrality.

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