The three architects of the Paris pact have warned that world leaders will have to return to the negotiating table next year with better plans. The plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the proposed targets agreed upon at the Cop26 summit are too weak to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.
According to the news, Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate director who led the 2015 Paris summit, and Laurence Tubiana, the French diplomat who created the deal, the deadline is critical if the world stays below the 1.5C limit. “In the current circumstances, [targets] must be enhanced next year,” said Laurent Fabius, a former French foreign minister who previously controlled Paris.
With the Glasgow discussions in their final hours, such a last-ditch intervention by such top figures underscores the growing concern among many experts about the gap between carbon targets and the steep reduction required to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels.
According to influential research released this week by Climate Action Tracker, current national plans – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – would result in 2.4 degrees of warming. Countries are expected to return in 2025 with better pledges, but several are now calling for the deadline to be pushed earlier. As the UK hosts try to broker a settlement, this is considered the most hotly contested point of contention.
“Honestly, if that [five-year] period is the first time that countries are called upon to raise their objectives, it will be too late,” said Figueres, a founding partner of the Global Optimism think tank. “This is a major issue. We require a greater sense of urgency, as this is a pivotal decade. We’ll have to return next year. We can’t bear to wait another five years for new NDCs.”
According to Figueres and Tubiana, requiring countries to return with improved targets next year is permissible under the Paris Agreement’s legal rules. Moreover, the European Union and UN Secretary-General António Guterres have spoken out in favor of the proposal. “Let’s have no illusions: if promises fall short by the conclusion of this Cop, governments must reassess their national climate plans and strategies,” Guterres said last week at the meeting. Not every five years, at least. “Every year.”
“We must come back next year, and in 2023,” Tubiana, now the head of the European Climate Foundation, added. That has to be at the heart of whatever happens in Glasgow. It is required to carry out the Paris Agreement.”
New science has shown that breaching the 1.5C threshold would have disastrous, some irreversible consequences, including the inundation of many low-lying areas, since the Paris Agreement was signed, binding countries to limit temperature rises “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels while “pursuing efforts” to a 1.5C limit. The temperature has now been increased to 1.1°C, and extreme weather is already affecting people worldwide.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emissions must be decreased by 45 percent by 2030 to keep below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The enhanced science indicates that the Paris agreement’s five-yearly adjustments – dubbed the “ratchet” – should be accelerated, according to Figueres. “The Paris Agreement was written to improve its provisions based on the greatest available science continually,” she continued.
With the world’s two largest emitters signing an unexpected cooperative accord on Wednesday promising them to work together on emissions cuts over the next decade, there may be room for compromise at the Cop26 conference.