Decarbonisation pledges 'fall far short' warns EPC report

By Dominic Ellis
New Energy Transitions Commission report sets out six key objectives which could close the gap to a 1.5°C pathway

Current national decarbonisation pledges made as part of the Paris climate accord fall far short of those needed to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new report from The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC).

Keeping 1.5°C Alive: Closing the Gap in the 2020s describes technologically feasible actions which could close that gap to a 1.5°C pathway and which could be catalysed by agreements at the upcoming COP26 climate summit in November in Glasgow, and sets out six key objectives. An additional 17-20 Gt of CO2 reductions and a 40% reduction in methane emissions would be needed to achieve that objective.

The six categories of action identified by the ETC are:

  1. Significant and rapid reductions in methane emissions The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that methane emissions have accounted for around 40% of past global warming, and reducing these emissions  is the most powerful lever available to limit global warming as soon as possible. But many NDCs place insufficient focus on methane. Low-cost actions could cut fossil fuel related emissions by 60% by 2030, while emissions arising from agriculture and waste management could potentially be cut by 30%.
  2. Halting deforestation and beginning reforestation Halting deforestation, beginning reforestation and improving other land use practices could reduce emissions by 6.5Gt per year by 2030. Achieving this will require financial support from rich developed countries and should be a priority use of committed climate finance.
  3. Decarbonising the power sector and accelerating the phaseout of coal. Coal-fired electricity generation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is increasingly uneconomic against renewables. An immediate ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, combined with a phaseout of existing coal plants could deliver 3.5 Gt of additional emissions reductions per year by 2030. All rich developed countries should commit to total phase out by2030, and climate finance flows from developed economies should support a gradual phase out in developing countries.
  4. Accelerating the electrification of road transport The shift to electric vehicles (EVs) promises to save consumers money in fuel costs and maintenance while eliminating one of the largest sources of air pollution. A ban on selling internal combustion engine light duty vehicles, instituted by 2035, would cement this shift.  Commitments by major fleet operators to fully electrify their vehicle fleets at still earlier dates would be a powerful driver of change. An additional 2.3 Gt per year of emission reductions could result from such actions by 2030.
  5. Accelerating supply decarbonisation in buildings, heavy industry, and heavy transport Eliminating emissions from these sectors will extend beyond 2030. But progress in technology and cost reduction is making possible faster reductions than most NDCs currently assume. Commitments by leading companies and countries in steel, cement, shipping and aviation could deliver an additional 1 Gt per year of emissions reductions, with a further 1 GT per year potentially delivered through accelerated electrification of electric heat.
  6. Reinvigorating energy and resource efficiency Despite big opportunities to achieve low-cost emissions reduction via improvements in energy and resource efficiency, recent progress has been disappointingly slowBut progress could be accelerated via action at COP26, building on existing initiatives to spur efficiency improvements in buildings and appliances.  

Many of the actions entail minimal cost and would spur further innovation and support green economic development; and all of them could be given impetus at COP26 via commitments from leading countries and companies, without the need for comprehensive international agreement.

But two high priority actions – ending deforestation and reducing emissions from existing coal plants – will need to be supported by climate finance flows from rich developed countries.

"To keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees alive, the world must act now to halve emissions over the next decade, and work towards net zero by the middle of the century," said COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma. "This report sets out a clear and credible action plan of achievable emissions to get us on a 1.5 degree pathway. Ahead of COP26, we urge all countries to submit enhanced plans to reduce emissions and take action on coal, cars, trees and methane."

"Current national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are a useful step forward but far from sufficient to limit global warming to an acceptable level," commented Adair Turner, Chair of the Energy Transitions Commission. 

"But we have the technologies to achieve far faster reductions, often at nil or low cost, and this report shows how. And much of what needs to be done does not require comprehensive international agreements, but can be driven forward by coalitions of leading countries and companies. COP26 must be the catalyst to seizing this opportunity."

Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26, said: "The ETC highlights the critical actions for nations and companies to Keep 1.5°C. Alive. Rallying leadership and global support is at the heart of the Race to Zero and the ETC's recommendations demonstrate that it is technically and economically feasible to achieve collective action in the next decade. Momentum is building and it is now crucial that we focus on rapid deployment in the 2020s, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C."

Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director, ReNew Power, said Country Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) fall well short of what is needed to limit global temperature rise by 1.5°C.

"More ambitious goals with targeted actions in the energy sector, with specific actions across electricity, transport, industries and buildings are needed," he said. "These must be backed by speedy deployment of zero-carbon power, proven emission reduction technologies, creation of the right policy environment to ensure technology diffusion in all sectors. The steps we take now will determine the kind of planet we leave as our legacy."


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