Global update: Governments still showing little sign of acting on climate crisis

Madrid -10 December 2019 – In the face of the growing climate emergency, governments seem determined to continue embracing fossil fuels, and even meeting their Paris Agreement pledges would see warming of 2.8˚C by the end of this century, according to the Climate Action Tracker’s 2019 annual update, released at COP25 in Madrid on Tuesday 10 December.

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In the face of the growing climate emergency, governments seem determined to continue embracing fossil fuels, and even meeting their Paris Agreement pledges would see warming of 2.8˚C by the end of this century, according to the Climate Action Tracker’s 2019 annual update, released at COP25 in Madrid on Tuesday 10 December.

Under government real-world action (current policies), global temperature is set to rise by 3˚C (1) and the most optimistic policy scenario would be 2.8˚C.

“We are not seeing the kind of action you’d expect from governments facing a climate emergency,” said Prof Niklas Höhne, of CAT partner organisation NewClimate Institute. “Since last year’s update, our temperature estimate has not improved from climate action, and many governments are still failing to meet their often insufficient targets.”

While all governments agreed to update their climate targets with more ambition by 2020, the CAT’s new Climate Target Update Tracker has only one country on its list of those that has done so, and only one full draft proposal – from Chile.

Coal is still playing a major role in government energy planning, despite the fact it’s now way more expensive than renewables. Governments continue to plan and build new coal plants, especially in Asia, where China, Japan and South Korea, who are also funding coal offshore.

An example of such offshore coal-funding is the proposed Lamu coal-fired power station in Kenya, that would be both Chinese-funded and built. Kenya it is set to meet its Paris pledge with renewables, but if both the Lamu plant and another proposed coal plant were to go ahead, its emissions would rocket up.

“Gas is a major concern. Governments are acting as if this fossil fuel is somehow clean – yet gas was responsible for half the increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption in 2017-18,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.

“But let’s be clear: for a 1.5˚C pathway, emissions from gas need to peak before 2030, halve by 2040, and be only a tiny part of global electricity demand by 2050.”

On the positive side, the growth of renewables is expected to soar: almost 2,400 GW was installed in 2018, a doubling of capacity in ten years, and is expected to increase by another 50% (1,200GW) in the next five years. This acceleration needs to increase if CO2 emissions are to peak soon and reduce rapidly to at least 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, and to do this governments need to stop supporting fossil fuels in the market.

The CAT has added four new countries to the 32 it undertakes detailed mitigation assessments: Kenya (2˚C compatible), Vietnam (“Critically Insufficient”), the UK (“Insufficient) and Germany (“Highly insufficient”).

(1) These estimates have fallen a little from the CAT update in September, but largely due to methodological changes and data updates rather than any upscaling of climate action.

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