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9 November 2021

Why the world is still on course for climate catastrophe

Temperature modelling based solely on policies shows the world is set to warm by 2.7°C.

By Nick Ferris

The pledges announced to coincide with Cop26 – including net-zero promises from India, Saudi Arabia and Australia – mean global temperatures are now set to rise this century by 1.8°C, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Since this figure is close to the 1.5°C level considered “safe” for the planet for climate change, it was celebrated in many quarters: IEA chief Fatih Birol described it as a “big step forward”.

But the IEA’s analysis is based only on long-term pledges, rather than the policies that will be needed to make those pledges a reality. 

A separate analysis of both policies and pledges by the think tank Climate Action Tracker (Cat) found that just 6 per cent of pledges are adequately supported by both policies and interim targets, which are usually for 2030. Cat further finds that, if we are to base temperature modelling solely on policies (ie, what is likely to happen), then the world is still on track for 2.7°C – warming that would be catastrophic. 

The authors of the report are scathing of the status quo, warning that “policy implementation on the ground is advancing at a snail’s pace”. They add that “there is a massive credibility, action and commitment gap that casts a long and dark shadow of doubt over the net zero goals put forward”. 

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