Science

New net-zero pledges push world close to 2 C target, UN finds

A report by the UN Environment Programme found recent announcements by dozens of countries to aim for "net-zero" emissions by 2050 could limit a global temperature rise to 2.2 degrees Celsius (4 F) by the end of the century.

Pledges still far from more ambitious 1.5 C goal, include few details or emissions cuts before 2030

Wind turbines turn in Pugwash, N.S. A new UN report shows new net-zero pledges from countries around the world could limit global warming to 2.2 C, not far from the less stringent Paris Agreement target of 2 C. (Cassie Williams/CBC)

The United Nations reported Tuesday that fresh pledges by governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions raise hopes but aren't strict enough to avoid catastrophic global warming.

A report by the UN Environment Programme found recent announcements by dozens of countries to aim for "net-zero" emissions by 2050 could limit a global temperature rise to 2.2 degrees Celsius (4 F) by the end of the century.

That's close to the less stringent target set in the Paris climate accord of capping global warming at 2 C (3.6 F) by the end of the century but far from the agreement's most ambitious goal of keeping it to 1.5 C (2.7 F).

The United States, the European Union and dozens of other countries have set net-zero emissions targets. However, the Environment Programme report said the net-zero goals that many governments announced in the run-up to a UN climate summit in Glasgow next week remain vague, with much of the heavy-lifting on emissions cuts pushed beyond 2030.

"Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem," the program's executive director, Inger Andersen, said.

"To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions," she said, adding: "The clock is ticking loudly."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks in Glasgow on Oct. 25, ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate conference. New net-zero pledges by countries around the world offer hope, the UN says. (Jeff J Mitchell/Pool/The Associated Press)

The report is one of several recent studies to examine the gap between what countries have pledged to do to cut emissions of planet-heating gases and what scientists say is required to meet the Paris goals.

Leaders, diplomats, scientists and environmental campaigners will meet in Glasgow from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 to discuss how countries and businesses can adjust their targets to avert the more extreme climate change scenarios that would result in significant sea-level rise, more frequent wild weather and droughts.

  • Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us: ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

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