Worlds Richest Countries Must Set More Ambitious Climate Change Goals, Report Finds

Patient Kyahi, principal of Sake Elementary School, in front of the blackboard in his mud-filled classroom in Sake, a village located 27 km from the city of Goma, North Kivu province in DRC. Credit: Sibylle Desjardins / Climate Visuals
Patient Kyahi, principal of Sake Elementary School, in front of the blackboard in his mud-filled classroom in Sake, a village located 27 km from the city of Goma, North Kivu province in DRC. Credit: Sibylle Desjardins / Climate Visuals
  • by Naureen Hossain, Abigail Van Neely (new york)
  • Inter Press Service

And with the hottest summer on record ending, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says, “climate breakdown has begun.”

G20 countries, which have both the largest economies and highest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, committed to reducing emissions by 2030 to limit global heating. A new paper from Oxfam finds that their goals are not ambitious enough.

“G20 countries - both collectively, and almost all of them individually - are failing to achieve their fair share of ambitious global mitigation required to limit global heating to 1.5?,” Oxfam reports, noting that 63 percent of the world’s population lives in the G20 countries, producing 78 percent of greenhouse gasses. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted yearly by each person in these countries must be cut in half by 2030 to stay on target. However, current plans are not on track to meet the global goal.

According to Oxfam, “richer G20 nations are performing worst of all.”

Oxfam notes that high-income countries have focused on increasing the climate efforts of low and middle-income countries without addressing their own failures to pledge to do their share. For instance, to proportionally contribute to reducing global emissions, the United States would have to enhance its current reduction target by an additional 240 percent. Oxfam determined these shortfalls using three different measurement tools that assess the fairness and ambition of countries’ current reduction targets.

“The richest G7 and G20 countries need to ramp up their own domestic climate ambition and radically increase climate finance to make up for historic emissions. This is not only a matter of equity – without it, we will never achieve the life-saving goals of the Paris Agreement,” Oxfam climate change policy lead, Nafkote Dabi, said.

The G20 members, which include high-income countries such as the United States, Australia, and Germany, account for 78 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. High-income are emitting the equivalent of 7.4 to 7.7 tons of CO2 on average per person. The Oxfam report indicates that their emissions need to be reduced by half – 2.9 to 3.8 tons – by 2030. It reflects a failure in their domestic pledges in their countries and their international commitments. Overall, the high-income countries were found to be among the worst emitters of greenhouse gases per annum.

A lack of financing has prevented many countries from achieving their climate goals. According to Oxfam, middle-income countries like South Africa, China, and Mexico have both lower historic responsibility for climate change and less financial capabilities to address its effects.

Middle-income G20 countries, such as India, Türkiye, Indonesia, and South Africa, are currently emitting close to 6.1 to 6.3 tons of CO2 per person per year. They would need to reduce this to 4 to 5.8 tons of CO2 per person. The report observes that while they have also failed to meet their global mitigation ambitions, in certain cases, these countries lack the financing capacity to address these issues.

Therefore, these ‘developing’ countries could rightly seek out the climate financing contributions that would be needed to meet these pledges. This is where the high-income G20 members would also be able to comply with global mitigation by increasing their contributions to international climate finance, thereby supporting the mitigation efforts of middle-to-lower-income countries. Under the metrics for fair sharing of mitigation efforts, this would also allow them all to meet global mitigation levels.

The Oxfam report has been published at a critical time as world leaders gear up to converge at summits in which climate action will undoubtedly be on the agenda as they reassess their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. The leaders of the G20 countries will be convening in India for the G20 Summit on 9-10 September.

Ahead of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in November, the G20 and other countries will be expected to present their upcoming climate action pledges for the Paris Agreement’s Global Stocktake for 2023. It will serve as a turning point where it will be determined whether they are on track to achieving the goals under the Paris Agreement.

There is also the upcoming Climate Ambition Summit on 20 September that the UN Secretary-General will convene amid the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. It will be expected that world governments, but especially major emitters, will present updated climate action plans and NDCs.

Ashfaq Khalfan, Oxfam America’s Director of Climate Justice, explains that countries in the global south need massive long-term investments to quickly replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energies. According to Khalfan, the current UN budget of USD 100 billion a year to fund all climate change projects is “a gross underestimate.” Adequate funding would be between 1 to 2 trillion dollars.

The UN predicts that if more ambitious action is not taken, there will be a 10 percent rise in emissions by 2030 instead of the 45 percent cut needed to reach the target of the Paris Agreement. If global heating rises beyond 1.5?, Khalfan says, half a million people will face water insecurity, ecosystems will be destroyed, and there will be unprecedented levels of extreme heat. To avoid these risks, Khalfan suggests that the public become more radical about putting pressure on their governments to act, especially in high-income countries.

Guterres will have an opportunity to call out leaders whose climate pledges are insufficient when he attends the G20 summit in India this weekend. In November, countries will submit their latest climate action pledges at the UN Climate Summit in Dubai.

“Governments really need to basically say either we are accepting catastrophic climate change because we're not willing to provide the resources, or we're not willing to accept catastrophic climate change, and we're willing to provide the resources. It has to be one or the other,” Khalfan said.

“With less than three months to go before this crucial climate stocktake is published, we call out the G20 for their failure of ambition and action. Unless G20 countries substantially improve their NDCs, they are effectively spelling ‘surrender’ in the face of the existential crisis of our times,” said Dabi.

“People living in poverty and in lower-income countries are suffering most. We look to the world’s super-emitters for solutions but find today their numbers simply don’t stack up.”

In the coming weeks, the world will be watching its leaders to see if they will be able to take the drastic but necessary actions to shoulder the responsibility of climate action.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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