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What happened to growing back greener?

It looks like it was just Gambia that got the memo about growing back greener, according to a report released this week by Climate Action Tracker (CAT). Based on its in-depth assessment, Gambia is the only country in the world taking climate actions that are ‘consistent with the Paris Agreement 1.5°C’.

“In May, after the Climate Leaders’ Summit and the Petersburg dialogue, we reported that there appeared to be good momentum with new climate action commitments, but governments then had only closed the emissions gap by up to 14 %,” said Niklas Höhne, of NewClimate Institute, a CAT partner organisation. “But since then, there has been little to no improvement: nothing is moving. Governments have now closed the gap by up to 15%, a minimal improvement since May. Anyone would think they have all the time in the world, when in fact the opposite is the case.”

The G20 has an outsized role to play in addressing climate change.


The worrying trend was further highlighted today in a UN report stating there is ‘no sign that we are growing back greener’, and that the temporary pandemic induced dip in emissions is over, with greenhouse gas emissions rising again.

“This is a critical year for climate action. This report by the United Nations and global scientific partner organisations provides a holistic assessment of the most recent climate science. The result is an alarming appraisal of just how far off course we are,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “We are still significantly off-schedule to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This year has seen fossil fuel emissions bounce back, greenhouse gas concentrations continuing to rise and severe human-enhanced weather events that have affected health, lives and livelihoods on every continent. Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C will be impossible, with catastrophic consequences for people and the planet on which we depend.”

The increasing regularity of extreme weather events provides painful evidence of the worsening climate conditions, while report after report reveals it will only get worse. World leaders heading to COP26 in Glasgow this November then cannot say they aren’t armed with the evidence to trigger an acceleration in climate action.

“These extreme events will only become more drastic in the future – this is why we cannot wait. Now is the time for action and Glasgow must be a turning point in the crisis. We need all countries to take the bold steps required to keep 1.5°C within reach,” tweeted John Kerry, Special US Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Closing the gap

The G20 countries, responsible for 80% of emissions, have an obvious responsibility to wield their power in the interests of people and planet during negotiations in Scotland. The major impact that improved commitments from these countries could make was revealed today in a paper from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Climate Analytics, which says that by taking urgent action G20 nations can shift the world ‘three-quarters of the way to limiting warming to 1.5°C’.

“This paper presents a set of scenarios that simulate different climate commitments made by G20 countries for 2030 and mid-century and the resulting impacts on global temperature rise. The analysis finds that if all G20 countries set ambitious, 1.5°C-aligned emission reduction targets for 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050, global temperature rise at the end of the century could be limited to 1.7°C, keeping the 1.5°C goal within reach,” the report says.

In April, US President Biden pledged that America would cut its emission by 52% – a drop from 2005 levels, by 2030, as part of the country’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs), as the Paris commitments are known, which countries are finalising ahead of this year’s COP26 in Glasgow. At the same time Japan confirmed a new 46% reduction target in emissions by 2030 – from 2013 levels, a sharp rise from its previous goal of 26%.

The UN Climate Challenge will publish the latest NDCs tomorrow, submitted by countries before 30 July, with a further update, accounting for any new or revised submissions received between 31 July and 12 October, to be published on the eve of COP26.

On what will also be the day the ‘first-ever finalists of The Earthshot Prize – 15 incredible innovators and leaders from around the world with ground-breaking solutions to repair our planet’ are revealed, everyone will be hoping for similarly ground-breaking NDCs that are designed to meet the scale of the climate challenge.

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Written By

Iain is a creative writer, journalist and lecturer, and formerly an editor of two international business publications. Iain is now editor of Innovators Magazine, as well as the strategic content director for OnePoint5Media.

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