Science

Most nations, including Canada, fall far short in plans to curb climate change, report finds

Nearly every nation, including Canada, is coming up short — most of them far short — in their efforts to fight climate change, and the world is unlikely to hold warming to the internationally agreed-upon limit, according to a new scientific report.

Canada's actions 'highly insufficient,' while U.S.'s are 'insufficient,' Climate Action Tracker finds

Emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo., in February 2021. A new report shows every nation, including Canada, is coming up short — most of them far short — in their efforts to fight climate change and keep warming to levels agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

Nearly every nation, including Canada, is coming up short — most of them far short — in their efforts to fight climate change, and the world is unlikely to hold warming to the internationally agreed-upon limit, according to a new scientific report.

Only one nation — tiny Gambia in Africa — is on track to cut emissions and undertake its share of actions to keep the world from exceeding the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C (2.7 F) of warming since pre-industrial times, the report said.

Only one industrialized nation — the United Kingdom — is even close to doing what it should to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases and finance clean energy for poorer nations, the Climate Action Tracker reported Wednesday.

Canada's actions were deemed to be "highly insufficient," along with Australia and China. 

Tom Gunton, a professor of resource and environmental planning at Simon Fraser University, previously worked with the Pembina Institute, an energy-focused think-tank, to rate Canadian and provincial climate change policies, and found they were unlikely to meet Canada's climate targets under the Paris Agreement.

He was not involved in the new study, but said its rating system was consistent and comprehensive, and the rating given to Canada was fair.

"Although we've been making significant progress by increasing our targets and implementing new actions, our policies still are not modelled to meet the requirements in our targets," he said. "And our targets are still not consistent with the Paris climate goals to achieve a warming for no more than 1.5 to two degrees." 

He said what sets Canada apart from many of the other countries in the "highly insufficient" category, such as China and India, is our much higher emissions per capita: "We're one of the few developed countries that has not achieved a reduction in emissions."

He added that Canada's targets of a 40 to 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 come closer to helping meet international commitments to limit global warming. "The bad news is the policies are not yet in place to achieve those targets," he said.

'Emissions gap' has dropped

In May, after U.S. President Joe Biden's climate summit, enough nations had promised big enough carbon pollution cuts that the tracker said the "emissions gap" — the difference between emissions projections with pledges and what's required to meet the 1.5-degree goal — dropped 11 per cent.

"That momentum has not been maintained," said report co-author Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics. "We're running short of countries stepping up with additional emission commitments to close the gap."

Canada's profile on the Climate Action Tracker shows how the country does on the effect of its policies and action on emissions, its domestic target, whether it's doing its 'fair share' compared to other countries, and its commitments to paying for clean energy in developing nations. (Climate Action Tracker)

Unlike its previous reports, which just looked at promises to cut carbon pollution and policy changes, the new ratings include money issues. Finance is critical to climate negotiations this fall in Scotland, so the report examined commitments by rich nations to help pay for clean energy for poor nations, said Hare, a climate scientist.

That hurt the United States and European Union rankings.

The report called efforts by the United States, the European Union, Germany and Japan "insufficient" and more in line with global warming of 3 C (5.4 F) since the late 19th century.

The world has already warmed 1.1 C (2 F) since that time, so these countries are on track to make the world 1.9 C (3.4 F) warmer than now.

U.S. pledges almost sufficient, but not in action yet

While the U.S. official emissions pledge is almost sufficient, the overall grade "reflects that Biden hasn't got his policies in place," said Hare. The report gave U.S. financial aid commitments the worst grade possible.

China, the highest carbon emitter, and third-highest carbon polluter India are what the report calls "highly insufficient" or more in line with 4 C (7.2 F) of warming since pre-industrial times.

"We just don't see enough action coming from China," Hare said.

Hare said Brazil and Mexico "went backwards" on their fight to curb warming. The report lists Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand on the bottom.

Gunton said country ratings like those in the Climate Action Tracker study are useful for comparing countries using a common benchmark to identify strengths and weaknesses in each country's policies.

"If other jurisdictions are doing significantly better than you, which is certainly the case [for Canada] in climate policy, you can try to identify why they're doing better and learn learn from them to improve your own policies.... So I think it's an extremely important exercise to do."

With files from CBC News

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