G20 nations are lagging in climate action, but have huge opportunities to increase ambition

The G20 is not on track to meet Paris pledges, but technological advances, sub-national action and societal support provide foundation for increased ambition.

September 21, 2019

G20 nations are collectively not on track to meet their Paris Agreement commitments, but they have huge opportunities to undertake rapid and deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, according to new UN and UNEP DTU Partnership research.

A pre-released chapter of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report shows that G20 members, which account for around 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, are not yet taking on transformative climate commitments at the necessary breadth and scale. The chapter released ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit this week.

Download the chapter here.

An array of emission slashing actions available

The 2018 Emissions Gap Report showed that around half of the G20 nations’ emissions trajectories fall short of achieving their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.

Taken as a whole, the current NDCs are nowhere near enough to meet the 1.5°C or below 2°C temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. This means that the world is still on the path to a catastrophic temperature rise of well over 3°C this century.

However, the chapter from the coming 2019 EMissions Gap Report points to key areas where G20 nations can rapidly step up action when they submit their next round of NDCs in 2020.

“We can only avoid planet-altering climate change with the full commitment of G20 nations to a zero-carbon future. So far, they haven’t done enough,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“But the good news is that every G20 nation has an array of nationally appropriate actions available to them to slash their emissions. Combined with strong political and societal support for climate action, there has never been a better opportunity for policymakers to take these actions.”

Serious gaps with potential

The full Emissions Gap Report, due for release in late November leading up to the COP25 negotiations, will contain a detailed G20 update.

According to last year’s Emissions Gap Report, nations must at least triple the level of ambition of their current NDCs to have a chance of keeping global temperature rise under 2°C. To keep global temperatures to 1.5°C, they must increase their ambitions fivefold. (LINK)

The pre-released chapter looks at what is causing this shortfall, finding that there are serious action gaps in all areas with high potential for emissions reductions:

  • Too few countries have committed to net-zero greenhouse gas emission targets;
  • Economy-wide climate action remains limited in areas such as ending fossil fuel subsidies, introducing ambitious and comprehensive carbon pricing, and making finance flows consistent with the Paris Agreement;
  • Country commitments to fully decarbonize electricity supplies cover less than 1 per cent of global CO2 emissions from electricity generation;
  • Countries and states are not setting ambitious targets for industry;
  • Commitments to zero net deforestation targets are not being backed with action on the ground.

The 2019 chapter states that G20 nations can fill these gaps and reach the ambition levels required by taking advantage of technological and economic developments to decarbonize their economies, maximizing the synergies between climate action and development objectives, and building on a surge of climate action commitments by non-state actors, such as cities and businesses.