Most countries still failing to take climate action seriously - UN report

Posted on February, 26 2021

The EU has improved its plan but it’s still way off the science
Individual countries have by and large increased their ambition, but overall commitments still fall  far short of what science says we need to do to keep the world on a global warming trajectory to 1.5°C and avoid devastating climate impacts, a UN report reveals.  According to scientists, global emissions should be halved by 2030 and be net zero by mid-century.

Countries must submit revised - and more ambitious - national climate targets and actions in their climate plans (called Nationally Determined Contributions in negotiating parlance, or just NDCs) well before COP26. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, COP26 was postponed from 2020 to November this year. The report only reflects NDCs received by 31 December 2020. This process of updating NDCs is part of the cycle of renewing climate targets and commitments set out in the Paris Agreement every five years. 

Responding to the report’s findings, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate & Energy said: “The Synthesis Report, released today, is a welcome opportunity to reflect on the state of the world’s real intentions to tackle the climate crisis. Only 45 submissions have been received by the end of the last year, representing about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of the countries who signed the Paris Agreement.

“While the report finds that individual countries have, by and large, increased their ambition, overall, it falls far short of science says we need to do and of what people - many who experience devastating climate impacts frequently - are demanding of their governments.

“What is inexcusable is the fact that the world’s richest countries, who represent 75% of global emissions, have not done their fair share. The world’s biggest emitters - China, India and the US among them - have not yet submitted their national climate plans. We have heard some promising signals from the US and China, but the proof of this will only be in their formal submission to the UN.” 

The EU has agreed an updated NDC which is more ambitious, but still far from enough to properly tackle the climate emergency.

Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office said:
"The EU has taken a good step by already agreeing an increase to its climate plan. But its new 55% net emissions reduction target for 2030 is still far off what climate science says is needed, let alone a fair compensation for the EU's massive historical contribution to climate change. Europe needs to increase its climate goal to 65% emissions cuts and show other countries that real climate action, social equality and economic prosperity can and do go hand in hand." 

“It is imperative that all countries submit their national climate plans well in advance of COP26, and that those countries who have already submitted insufficient plans, should commit to review them.COP26 should be a moment both to celebrate enhanced ambition that puts us on a 1.5°C pathway, and to lay out a roadmap to allow countries to further cooperate to close the multiple gaps on ambition, action and finance in the next five years,” said Pulgar-Vidal.

The report released by UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) today was the first of two reviewing the level of ambition to reduce global emissions made by countries who are Parties to the global Paris Agreement.

Notes to Editors:

Some key statistics from the report:
  • The world is far off-track to meeting the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, namely to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C by the end of this century.
  • The Synthesis Report shows that 45 national climate plans (representing 75 Parties as the EU countries as one Party) submitted new or updated plans by 30 December 2020. These plans account for about 40% of the Parties to the Paris Agreement and about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Of the plans submitted, the majority increased their individual levels of ambition (to reduce emissions), putting them on a path to achieve only around 1% reduction in global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. (The IPCC’s Special Report on Warming at 1.5°C says emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around 45% lower.)
  • G20 countries account for 75% of global emissions. Only nine of the G20 countries had submitted national climate plans (or NDCs in negotiations parlance) by December 2020. The plans submitted by Japan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil and Mexico show no increased ambition. [NOTE: The G20 is the international forum that brings together the world’s major economies. Its members account for more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of global trade and 60% of the population of the planet. Source:]
  • Countries representing more than 70% of global emissions still have to submit their plans. This has to be done well before COP26, scheduled for November 2021.
For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods
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A dried up river bed in Morocco, North Africa, where rainfall has reduced by 75% as a result of climate change.
© Global Warming Images / WWF