CAT Update: No Increase in Climate Action

One year after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, national climate policies have made little progress, and the road ahead looks even less clear after the results of the US Presidential elections.

Based on its latest assessment of climate pledges and policies, as of 1 November 2016, the Climate Action Tracker – partner of the Climate Transparency consortium – estimates that if governments were to fully implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), this would result in global warming of 2.8°C above pre-industrial in 2100 (i.e. there is a likely chance of holding warming below 3.1°C). The small increase from 2.7˚C (CAT, Paris update) to 2.8˚C is largely due to changes in updated historical emissions and projections, not due to actual changes in the NDCs.

A substantial gap remains between NDC emissions and the benchmark emissions pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal. The CAT estimates the size of the gap at 14–17 GtCO2e by 2025 and 21–24 GtCO2e by 2030.

The CAT has not detected sufficient positive movement in government policy over the last year that would have an effect on our estimates. As a consequence, our COP21 Paris projections for current policies remain the same at 3.6°C of warming by 2100. If governments were to achieve their NDCs, warming would be reduced by around 0.5 to 1.1°C to the median estimate above of 2.8°C.

In recent weeks, the CAT has updated 25 country assessments, totaling 69% of global emissions. The majority of the NDCs are still not in line with a fair contribution to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal. Of the 31 government NDCs assessed by the CAT, we rate 14 as Inadequate, and 12 as Medium—against a 2°C benchmark. They are clearly even further away from the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit. Only five are rated Sufficient.

If US President-elect Donald Trump were to put in motion the policies announced during his presidential campaign, his government could cost the US years of climate policy progress. CAT’s current assessment shows that plans like the Clean Power Plan and the Climate Action Plans are essential to put the US onto a pathway towards meeting their nationally determined contribution made under the Paris Agreement and in line with the world avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. President-elect Trump has announced he will not implement new federal climate policies; this would go in the opposite direction of where we need to go. Our assessment also shows that the USA’s currently implemented policies are not sufficient, and that more needs to be done. Even if some States pursue further climate actions, impacts are likely going to be smaller than for federal policies.

“The US is unlikely to meet its nationally determined contribution made under the Paris Agreement and, if the President-elect Trump abandons current policies as he has threatened to, we estimate that in 2030, US emissions will be similar to what they are today,” said Prof Niklas Höhne, of NewClimate Institute.

The European Union’s 2030 target, rather than accelerating climate action, represents a slight slowdown at a time when the rate of action needs to be increasing—essentially at least tripling over this period—to meet the EU’s own long-term 2050 emission reduction goals, as well as the Paris Agreement temperature goal.

China is on track to peak its carbon dioxide emissions between 2025 and 2030, which is an important element of its NDC commitment under the Paris Agreement. However, the absence of comparable measures, or commitments, on other greenhouse gases from industry and agriculture means its total greenhouse gas emissions could continue to increase until at least 2030.

Developments in India are amongst the most important underway globally. Given its state of development, India could have been expected to increase its coal-fired power use for decades. Instead, there appears to be a transition underway with an extremely rapid growth in renewable energy installations, which has begun to displace planned coal at a scale that has surprised many analysts.

Aside from the increased uncertainty over US climate policy, the current laggards are:

  • South Korea, which has abandoned its 2020 target and is intending on building new coal;
  • Russia, the world’s third largest emitter, which has one of the weakest climate plans submitted by any government, anywhere; and
  • Saudi Arabia, whose climate plans are highly uncertain, since it has not yet revealed the baseline corresponding to its INDC target.

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