UN Report shows most countries still failing to take climate action seriously

Posted on 26 February 2021

Current plans and actions not in line with science.

(26 February 2021) - UN Climate Change today released the first of two reports reviewing the level of ambition to reduce global emissions made by countries who are Parties to the global Paris Agreement.


The findings of the NDC Synthesis Report show that while individual countries have by and large increased their ambition, overall, it falls far short of science says we need to do, and will keep the world on a global warming trajectory beyond 1.5°C which is necessary to avoid devastating climate impacts.  According to scientists, global emissions should be halved by 2030 and be net zero by mid-century.


Countries must submit revised - and more ambitious - national climate targets and actions in their climate plans (called Nationally Determined Contributions in negotiating parlance, or just NDCs) well before COP26. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, COP26 was postponed from 2020 to November this year. The report only reflects NDCs received by 31 December 2020. This process of updating NDCs is part of the cycle of renewing climate targets and commitments set out in the Paris Agreement every five years. 


Responding to the report’s findings, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate & Energy said: “The Synthesis Report, released today, is a welcome opportunity to reflect on the state of the world’s real intentions to tackle the climate crisis. Only 45 submissions have been received by the end of the last year, representing about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of the countries who signed the Paris Agreement.


“While the report finds that individual countries have, by and large, increased their ambition, overall, it falls far short of science says we need to do and of what people - many who experience devastating climate impacts frequently - are demanding of their governments.


“What is inexcusable is the fact that the world’s richest countries, who represent 75% of global emissions, have not done their fair share. The world’s biggest emitters - China, India and the US among them - have not yet submitted their national climate plans. We have heard some promising signals from the US and China, but the proof of this will only be in their formal submission to the UN.” Countries like Norway, UK and EU have raised their ambition but could be doing even more. The plans submitted by Japan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico and Brazil show no increased ambition. Due to methodological issues, plans from Brazil and Mexico could even result in additional emissions.


“It is imperative that all countries submit their national climate plans well in advance of COP26, and that those countries who have already submitted insufficient plans, should commit to review them.COP26 should be a moment both to celebrate enhanced ambition that puts us on a 1.5°C pathway, and to lay out a roadmap to allow countries to further cooperate to close the multiple gaps on ambition, action and finance in the next five years,” he said.


“We are in a planetary emergency. Human activities are destabilizing our climate and food systems, and destroying the natural ecosystems we depend on faster than they can replenish themselves. The growing threat of reaching irreversible climate tipping points must compel political and economic action on global emissions, say scientists. It will take an unprecedented, coordinated and urgent effort by all countries to change the trajectory we are on and to reach net zero emissions by no later than mid-century,” he said.


Notes to Editors

Some key statistics from the report:

  • The world is far off-track to meeting the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, namely to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C by the end of this century.
  • The Synthesis shows that 45 national climate plans (representing 75 Parties as the EU countries as one Party) submitted new or updated plans by 30 December 2020. These plans account for about 40% of the Parties to the Paris Agreement and about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Of the plans submitted, the majority increased their individual levels of ambition (to reduce emissions), putting them on a path to achieve only around 1% reduction in global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. (The IPCC’s Special Report on Warming at 1.5°C says emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around 45% lower.)
  • G20 countries account for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Only nine of the G20 countries had submitted national climate plans (or NDCs in negotiations parlance) by December 2020. The plans submitted by Japan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil and Mexico show no increased ambition. [NOTE: The G20 is the international forum that brings together the world’s major economies. Its members account for more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of global trade and 60% of the population of the planet. Source: https://www.g20.org/en/il-g20.html]
  • Countries representing more than 70% of global emissions still have to submit their plans. This has to be done well before COP26, scheduled for November 2021.
 For further information, contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org 
UN Climate Change released a Synthesis Report on the climate targets and actions proposed by countries as reflected in the national climate plans (or Nationally Determined Contributions) submitted by December 2020.
© Naoyuki Yamagishi / WWF-Japan