March 25, 2023


With the current collective action falling way short of what is required to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degree Celsius, an effort is being made at the climate change conference here to push all the countries, or at least the major emitters, to do more on emissions reduction before 2030.

A ’mitigation work programme’ set up at the Glasgow climate conference last year for this purpose has been at work since the start of the Sharm el-Shaikh meeting, without much progress. A ministerial round-table has also been discussing the possibility of greater mitigation actions before 2030. One of the options being discussed is to get all the countries to update their NDCs (nationally determined contributions) once again, either next year or in 2024, to ensure greater emissions reduction before 2030.

But a pushback is coming from the side of developing countries who have been arguing that the gap exists mainly on account of the failure of the developed world to fulfil their previous emission reduction targets, and their inability to provide adequate finance or facilitate technology transfer that could have enabled greater emission reductions in other nations. As such, any further mitigation actions in the immediate future must come from developed countries only, the argument goes.

Countries like India only recently updated their nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, promising more climate action. They say there is little room for further scaling up of actions in the immediate future. As Indian minister Bhupendra Yadav put it, asking developing countries to do more when they have little more to offer would only lead to inaction, and would be counterproductive.

Countries submitted their first pledges in 2015, detailing the targets they would meet by 2025 or 2030. About 30 countries updated their NDCs in the last two years, strengthening their targets for 2030. The next update is due in 2025.

The problem is that the current targets for 2030 are not commensurate with the goal of keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times. All scientific assessments show that the 1.5 degree Celsius target would likely be breached in one decade, or possibly sooner. Long-term projections show that, with the current level of climate actions, the world was headed for 2.8 degree Celsius temperature rise by the end of the century.

Under the Paris Agreement, a global stocktake (GST) is supposed to happen in 2023. This would be a comprehensive review of all the climate actions taken — not just the mitigation actions — to assess whether it was consistent with the requirements, and what more needed to be done. The GST is expected to result in a call for massive upscaling of all climate actions, especially on mitigation and finance.

However, the need to reduce emissions in the immediate future is so urgent that even the GST exercise looks too far off. A recent report from the World Meteorological Organisation said that there was at least a 50 per cent chance that the 1.5 degree Celsius warming would temporarily be achieved in the next five years. Hence, the urgency to raise mitigation actions in the pre-2030 period.

Bhupendra Yadav, however, argued that the gaps in pre-2030 actions were a mere extension, and a natural fall-out, of the failure of the developed countries to meet their pre-2020 obligations. To fill up the gap, developed countries should attempt to achieve net zero status by 2030, instead of 2050.

“Pre-2030 must be clarified. How far back does pre-2030 go? In our view, pre-2030 in this sense is no different from pre-2020. It is the historical cumulative emissions before a given year that measures responsibility. So, our consideration must include pre-2020 responsibility and whether pre-2020 commitments have been fulfilled. It (pre-2030) cannot begin in 2020,” he said at the ministerial roundtable.

“Our understanding is that the Annex-I Parties (developed countries) have not met their pre-2020 commitments together and several individuals as well. So pre- 2030 ambition must be measured in terms of whether countries are staying within their fair share of the carbon budget, taking note of both the historical period and the future. By this scientific criterion, some developed countries must reach net zero even before 2030 and 2050 is not enough at all. So, this is where we must begin talking about opportunities for ambition,” Yadav added.

He asserted that only developed countries had the capacity, and resources, to make deeper emission reductions, and therefore they must take the lead.

“The opportunities for ambition vary across parties (countries). We must recognise this. If not, our efforts to increase ambition from those who have little to give will only result in inaction. Developed countries must take the lead. After all, the bulk of both finance and technology transfer is available with them,” he said.

On Tuesday, the BASIC group, comprising India, China, Brazil and South Africa, also took a similar stand and called for the closing of the pre-2020 implementation gaps that were jeopardising the pre-2030 targets.

“There needs to be a definitive account of the pre-2020 period… assessing its achievements, progress and gaps, as this will provide the equity basis towards achieving the long-term global goals,” said a joint statement following a meeting of the ministers of the four countries.

“Developed countries must honour their pre-2020 commitments regarding mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation and support provided, without transferring any burden and responsibility to developing countries. Developed countries are required to take immediate actions to close the pre-2020 implementation gaps,” it said, expressing concern that there was a lot of “backtracking” happening on mitigation and finance commitments and pledges made by developed nations.





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