UN: climate change pledges must be turned into action

The planet is going in the wrong direction when it comes to carbon emissions, Dubai summit hears

Countries need to turn their climate pledges and policies into concrete action for the world to achieve its climate risk mitigation targets, a senior UN official has said.

The planet is currently going in the wrong direction in terms of carbon emissions, despite 191 countries submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), James Grabert, global head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat's Mitigation Division, said on Wednesday.

“NDCs are looking towards 2030, so they are short-term [targets] that are there, but what we are not seeing enough of are concrete policies,” he told a panel discussion at the World Green Economy Summit in Dubai, being held as part of Expo 2020 Dubai.

“We are going to need much more … this next decade is critical. If we don’t have policies that are really having [an] effect and we have to constantly [monitor and revise] them, we are not going to meet the targets.”

NDCs are non-binding national plans that highlight climate actions. These include climate-related targets for greenhouse-gas emission reductions, as well as policies and measures that governments intend to carry out under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The UN has published commitments from 191 signatories of the Paris accord before its climate change conference in Glasgow next month.

There are 86 new or updated NDCs communicated by 113 signatories to the Paris accord, according to the UN data.

However, trends are not encouraging. When all NDCs are aggregated, it indicated that “we are on an increase in emissions from 2010 [levels] by 16 per cent by 2030", Mr Grabert said.

“We are in the wrong direction if we add all that up.”

NDCs from signatories have set targets for renewable energy generation and there is a clear shift to low-carbon fuels and energy efficiency.

“We are beginning to see policies towards more efficient transport … circular economy, waste-to-energy and recycling,” he said. There is also a lot of push on “carbon pricing as a mechanism to drive the low-carbon behaviour that is needed”.

In April, the International Monetary Fund urged governments to set a higher global carbon pricing floor to help fight climate change. A carbon price floor, which the fund has been recommending, imposes a tax on fossil fuels to incentivise investment in low-carbon alternatives.

A mix of carbon taxes and green investment stimulus could increase the level of global output by about 0.7 per cent in the next 15 years and create about 12 million new jobs by 2027, the IMF's managing director Kristalina Georgieva said earlier this year.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought “build-back-better” plans and greener economies into sharp focus, underpinning the need to invest in meeting the UN climate goals and making the transition to a net-zero economy. The 2015 Paris Agreement mandates that countries lower their carbon emissions to meet the goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level.

Mr Grabert said countries that have longer-term mid-century climate goals to become carbon neutral are on the right path in terms of carbon emission reduction, which is “what we need".

“That is an important factor. If you put long-term strategies together in a way that aligns with that 1.5°C pathway … that seems to be able to drive us towards” achieving carbon goals, he said.

To meet climate pledges, governments around the world are making a push for digitisation and transforming major industries into more high-tech sustainable businesses, developing greener transport systems and creating smarter electricity grids.

Investments into renewable power and building green urban infrastructure are also part of the efforts to reduce the impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods.

Dubai is a regional pioneer in the digitisation push to go paperless in government services this year, eliminating more than 1 billion pieces of paper used for government transactions every year.

“Our mandate today is digital economy, digital infrastructure and building digital skills in the city,” Hamad Al Mansoori, director general of Digital Dubai, told the conference. The government body is working with the private sector to provide world class digital services in the emirate, he said.

Updated: October 6th 2021, 6:06 PM
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