The world is on track to make a "significant dent" in cutting greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing economic growth, according to a report released today from the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat.

The report assesses the overall effect of plans covering 146 countries, including Canada, in the run-up to the global summit in Paris next month. And it finds cause for optimism in the "unprecedented" collective effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"These national climate action plans represent a clear and determined down payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in a news release. "Governments from all corners of the Earth have signalled through their [plans] that they are determined to play their part according to their national circumstances and capabilities."

The report predicts that partner countries will bring global per-person emissions down by as much as eight per cent in 2025 and nine per cent by 2030. That will be achieved through policies that signal a "major economic transformation," including massive shifts to renewable energy, energy efficiencies and improved land management, urban planning and transportation, according to the report.

"They reflect growing government confidence in the global response by tens of thousands of companies and investors and thousands of mayors and regional governments who see their own sustainable futures built upon this transformation," the report reads.


A new report from the United Nations says the world can achieve climate change targets while undergoing a major economic transformation (Francois Mori/Associated Press)

The report comes as more than 80 world leaders, including prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau, prepare to attend the UN climate change conference in Paris starting Nov. 30. The goal is to find agreement on a climate change plan to cap global warming at two degrees.

'Climate-safe future'

Figueres said the collective plans have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to about 2.7 degrees by 2100, which falls below target, but is much lower than the five-plus degrees previously projected.

But today's report says the journey to a "climate-safe future" is underway and the Paris agreement can "confirm and catalyze" the transition.

The 146 plans include all developed nations and three-quarters of developing countries, representing 86 per cent of global emissions. That's nearly four times the commitment at the time of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first international treaty aimed at reducing emissions.

Trudeau declined to give a precise reduction target during the election campaign. The Liberal Party platform promises to put a price on carbon, phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and create a $2-billion fund for projects that help cut emissions.

It also promises to end the cycle of setting "arbitrary" targets without a real plan to meet them, and to ensure the provinces and territories have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet commitments.

justin trudeau

Justin Trudeau campaigned on a platform promising to put a price on carbon, phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and create a $2-billion fund for projects that help cut emissions. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

"These targets must recognize the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than-two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent, as well as the need for Canada to do its part to prevent that from happening," the platform reads.

Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government took a sector-by-sector approach to cutting emissions, targeting a 17 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. In May, he announced a 30 per cent reduction target from 2005 levels by 2030.

'Serious shortfalls'

In a release Friday, Canada's Climate Action Network pushed for three things coming out of the Paris talks:

  • a substantial financial commitment to support less-developed countries in both cutting emissions and adapting to climate change.
  • a "robust assessment mechanism" to co-ordinate and review targets on a five-year basis, including an improved offer from Canada.
  • a plan in place by 2016 to reach Canada's commitments.

"The world is not out of the woods yet", said Louise Comeau, the group's executive director. ​"There are serious shortfalls in level of ambition that have to be addressed."

Another report for policymakers will be released by the UN Climate Change Secretariat next month on leveraging economic benefits from climate change policies.