At the end of COP26, in November 2021, world leaders included in the final policy document, the Glasgow Climate Pact, the promise that each UNFCCC member state would submit updated targets on climate change mitigation and adaptation by COP27, or at least by the end of 2022. What happened to that promise? How many countries have deposited updates of their national climate pledges (NDCs)?
To date (August 2022) only 17 out of 196 states have deposited updated documents, less than 9%. Moreover, the 17 ‘virtuous’ countries are only responsible for 5.1% of global emissions by 2020, with South Korea, Brazil and Australia the only countries in the group above 1%. Not much, considering that theoretically, according to the commitment made in Glasgow, 179 states responsible for 94.9% of global emissions are still missing from the rollcall. It is to be expected that a certain number of contributions will be forthcoming in the run-up to COP27 (some countries such as Indonesia, Turkey, and Mexico have expressed this view), but the uncertain international geopolitical scenario and the energy crisis in Europe seem to be globally influencing the definition of new and more ambitious climate policies. It is emblematic that, of the 55 African Union member countries, only seven have updated their NDCs, given also the current internal confusion within the African negotiating group regarding the role of natural gas in the continent’s energy mix.
Among the heaviest NDCs in terms of emissions liability and (in theory) due to be updated by November are China’s (last updated 28 October 2021), the United States’ (last updated 22 April 2021) and the European Union’s, which is even stuck at 18 October 2020. While nothing seems to presage an update of the US and Chinese national pledges, documents that are all in all quite recent, also in the light of the recent interruption of political cooperation on climate in the wake of the Taiwan crisis, it is, on the other hand, certain that the European Union will not present any update to its own pledges. As early as December 2021, in fact, the European Commission had made it clear that updating the NDCs according to the Glasgow Climate Pact would only be mandatory for those countries not yet in line with the Paris Agreement targets, while European ones would be – despite independent studies saying otherwise. In short, it does not look as if the top three global emitters will come to Sharm El-Sheikh with any major formal changes, barring any surprises.
Among the NDCs updated in 2022, Australia’s is worth noting, which sees a major shift in the national mitigation target from a mild -26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 to a more robust -45%, as promised by the Albanian Prime Minister in his election campaign only a few months ago. Just a few days ago, on 4 August, the Indian government announced the approval of new national climate targets and thus of a new NDC (not yet deposited); the new targets confirm what President Modi promised at COP26, with a reduction in carbon intensity over the next seven years of -45% compared to 2005 levels, an improvement of about 10% over the previous target, albeit with all the perplexities that may arise from the fact that targets on intensity (as opposed to those on the quantity of climate-altering agents actually emitted) may imply a growth in real emissions. In the new NDC, India will also indicate its willingness to supply the country’s energy demand to 2030 at 50 per cent from renewable sources, a 10 per cent increase over the previous target.
Lastly, the entry of the Holy See, representing the Vatican City State, into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last July, followed by the Vatican’s endorsement of the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, a campaign supported by major cities such as London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and thousands of civil society organisations.
As anticipated, it is to be expected that many countries will submit updated national pledges in the run-up to COP27 if not in the very first days of the conference, as has often happened in the past. The apparent delay in the drafting of these and the absence of an international debate in this regard, however, suggest a certain watering down of the pledge made in Glasgow, due to an obviously unexpected international scenario that cannot, however, serve as an excuse for any lessening of global ambition, quite apart from the obvious circumstances.
Article by Jacopo Bencini, Policy Advisor and UNFCCC Contact Point for Italian Climate Network