Countries’ moves to increase climate action have slowed to a standstill despite scientists issuing a “code red” for humanity, analysis has found.
A new update by Climate Action Tracker of nations’ action plans for cutting emissions over the next decade finds none are doing what is needed to avoid catastrophic warming.
Only one country, The Gambia, is rating as having overall climate action that is in line with limiting global warming to 1.5C, a target which countries pledged to try to meet under the international Paris Agreement on the issue in 2015.
Among major economies, only the UK is close to doing what is sufficient to meet the 1.5C target and avoid the worst impacts of the planet heating up, the analysis warns.
That is despite a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which UN secretary general Antonio Guterres described as a code red for humanity, making it clear humans were driving dangerous global warming and that urgent action was needed to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.
To keep to the 1.5C target, global emissions need to nearly halve by 2030, and governments are nowhere near this, the analysis warns.
Current actions leaving the world emitting roughly the same as today in 2030 – twice as much as required for the 1.5C goal, it warns.
Its new analysis highlights the ongoing gap between the emissions cuts needed by 2030 to limit temperature rises to 1.5C and what countries have pledged to deliver.
Countries are expected to bring forward stronger national action plans for 2030 to close the gap ahead of crucial UN “Cop26” climate talks in Glasgow in November.
But momentum earlier in the year in the wake of climate summits hosted by the US and Germany, has stalled, with no major economies putting forward stronger targets since May and the emissions gap has barely changed.
Countries have closed the gap by up to 15% compared to a year ago, up from 14% in the last assessment by the analysts in May.
Scientists warn the world is already experiencing worse extremes at 1.2C of warming and if temperatures go above 1.5C we face significantly more heatwaves, rainstorms, water shortages and drought, greater economic losses and lower crop yields, higher sea levels and greater damage to coral reefs.
But many governments including Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Russia have failed to lift their ambition on cutting emissions, submitting the same or less ambitious targets for 2030 than they did in 2015 under the Paris process.
Only the UK has a domestic target considered to be compatible with meeting the 1.5C target, while some are close such as the EU, Germany and Norway, the analysis said.
The UK’s overall rating is “almost sufficient”, the only major economy to achieve that rating, while the EU, US, Germany and Japan are among those rated insufficient, and Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and India are among the countries considered to be “highly insufficient”.
Five of the 37 countries assessed, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, are rated as critically insufficient in the analysis.
Niklas Hohne, of NewClimate Institute, said: “In May, after the Climate Leaders’ Summit and the Petersburg dialogue, we reported that there appeared to be good momentum with new climate action commitments, but governments then had only closed the emissions gap by up to 14%.
“But since then, there has been little to no improvement: nothing is moving.
“Governments have now closed the gap by up to 15%, a minimal improvement since May. Anyone would think they have all the time in the world, when in fact the opposite is the case.”
Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, said: “An increasing number of people around the world are suffering from ever more severe and frequent impacts of climate change, yet government action continues to lag behind what is needed.”
Many countries have committed to reducing their emissions to zero overall – known as net zero – by 2050, which is required to meet the 1.5C goal, but the analysts warn that without stronger 2030 targets the long term goals will be missed.
The analysis also warns that coal remains an issue in China, India and south east Asia, while Australia and the EU are among the economies continuing to fund gas, even though it needs to be phased out as soon as possible.