The Paris Agreement Climate goal is a story we've all heard before. In 2015, world leaders came together and created the Paris Agreement, vowing to take steps to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. And yet, here we are—just a few short years later—and it's clear that the progress made so far is not enough to meet Paris Agreement climate targets.
In one of its recent articles The New York Times reports that China, India, the United States and the European Union - the world’s biggest emitters that are accountable for more than half of historical emissions of planet-warming gases - haven’t reduced their emissions enough to meet their Paris Agreement targets. Alarmingly, a new report from UN Climate Change shows that the combined climate pledges of 193 countries that joined the Paris Agreement could put the world on track for 2.5°C of global warming by the end of the century - far from the outcome that we all strive for.
So what gives? How could the world's economies fail so miserably at something so important? Let's take a look at a few of the most common culprits.
Lack of Ambition
One of the biggest problems is that many countries simply didn't make ambitious enough promises in the first place. The whole point of the Paris Agreement was to prevent catastrophic climate change, yet many countries put forward goals that would only result in minor emissions reductions.
For example, Australia recently updated its climate targets to 43% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. But according to a recent report from Climate Action Tracker, Australia’s commitments and climate policies are still insufficient and are not compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. What’s more, under Australia’s current policies, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to climb and will translate into more than 3°C warming if all other Paris Agreement Parties followed a similar level of ambition.
So Much for Doing our Part.
Lack of Progress
It's not just that countries' goals weren't ambitious enough; it's also that we're not making enough progress toward those goals. In 2018, global carbon dioxide emissions reached an all-time high, meaning we're moving in the wrong direction entirely.
Part of the problem is that we're still relying too heavily on fossil fuels instead of investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—still provide over 80 percent of total global primary energy consumption. That leaves less than 20% for renewable energy sources. If we're ever going to meet our climate goals, that has to change—and fast.
Lack of Funding
Another big reason why countries are struggling to meet their climate goals is a lack of funding. Many developing nations simply can't afford to invest in green infrastructure and clean energy technologies upfront, which means they remain reliant on fossil fuels in the short-term.
The solution to this problem was agreed on back in 2009 when developed nations pledged to donate $100 billion each year to vulnerable countries hit by climate change related impacts and disasters. Sadly, this promise was never kept although there are some significant improvements in this area - as per OECD recent report, in 2020 developed nations provided $83.3 billion USD of financial climate support whereas in 2016 climate finance support was just $58.5 billion USD. Although we are on the right track with the numbers, currently there is still a large gap that needs to be filled if developed nations are ever going to meet their financial obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Despite the many challenges facing global economies in their quest to achieve the Paris Agreement climate goals, it is not impossible. By increasing ambition, making progress and securing funding, we can make sure that our planet remains a hospitable place for future generations. But one thing is for sure - the world is in trouble if we don't start making some serious progress NOW.