Last week the United Nations secretariat issued a “Synthesis Report” summarizing the current status of the attempts by the signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement in addressing climate change. The Report provides sobering revelations concerning the speed by which irreversible climate change is occurring and how little time the world has to take action. The Report is stated to be a synthesis of information provided, as of December 31, 2020, by 48 of the Nationally Determined Contributors (“NDCs”), with respect to their goals for periods ranging between 2025 and 2050. It is anticipated that the information will be updated as the time for the next conference on climate change approaches.
The report summarizes the present goals for reduction in Green House Gases (“GHGs”) but notes: “…to be consistent with global emission pathways with no or limited overshoot of the 1.5°C goal, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions need to decline by about 45 per cent from the 2010 level by 2030,reaching net zero around2050. For limiting global warming to below 2°C, CO2 emissions need to decrease by about 25 per cent from the 2010 level by 2030 and reach net zero around 2070. Deep reductions are required for non-CO2 emissions as well. Thus, the estimated reductions referred to … above fall far short of what is required, demonstrating the need for Parties to further strengthen their mitigation commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
The Report summarizes various actions and goals proposed by the Participants noting:
“Adaptation actions and economic diversification plans with mitigation co-benefits include climate-smart agriculture, reducing food waste, vertical farming, adapting coastal ecosystems, increasing the share of renewable sources in energy generation, improving energy efficiency, carbon dioxide capture and storage, fuel switch and fuel price reforms in the transport sector, and moving to circular economy for better waste management.”
In summarizing the risks, impacts and vulnerabilities the Report states:
“Most of the adaptation components described key climatic changes, referring in particular to temperature increase, extreme temperatures, precipitation changes and sea level rise. These were identified as triggering various climate impacts, in particular extreme events (including rainfall events, storms and cyclones), flooding, drought, heatwaves, saltwater intrusion, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, erosion and landslides. Parties described how impacts affect vulnerable areas. Of particular concern are agriculture and other aspects of food security, water, biodiversity and ecosystems, health systems, infrastructure (in particular energy) and loss of territory, livelihoods and habitats. Parties highlighted groups and areas that are particularly vulnerable. As factors of vulnerability, they highlighted, for example, dependence on climate-sensitive sectors, status as a small island developing State, having complex and vulnerable ecosystems, location of population and infrastructure on coasts, and economic factors, in particular poverty. Vulnerability has also increased as a result of COVID-19.”
The Report also notes “co-benefits” between adaptation and mitigation and the ability to develop new energy sources.
Yet, in a Press Release issued by the UN, concerning the Report, it was stated that the Report:
“… found that even with increased efforts by some countries, the combined impact falls far short of what is needed.
‘Today’s interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet. It shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement‘, Secretary-General António Guterres said on the report’s findings.”