Major economies are promising new 2030 climate goals, but will they deliver?

A wave of updated national climate action plans is now expected ahead of the COP27 Climate Summit, but countries are still resisting calls to ramp up climate finance pledges

A high-profile meeting hosted by the US last week saw a number of the world’s biggest emitting countries announce plans to enhance their 2030 climate goals. Australia, Chile, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam all signaled that they had already submitted strengthened national climate action plans – or Nationally Determinated Contributions (NDCs) in the UN jargon – or were planning to do so in the coming months. But any sense of momentum building ahead of the COP27 Climate Summit was tempered by the failure of major emitters such as the US, EU, China, and India to come forward with similar commitments, and a continued lack of fresh funding pledges for poorer struggling nations With escalating climate impacts, rising energy and food prices, and the continued fallout from the pandemic.

A summary of the Major Economies Forum published by the White House late last week lists a raft of fresh climate commitments from countries preparing to update their near-term climate goals. COP27 Climate Summit host Egypt said it was putting the “finishing touches” to a plan that would include “specific quantitative targets” for various sectors, while Mexico said it intended to submit an enhanced target in line with the Paris Agreement ahead of COP27, according to the briefing.

Turkey and the UAE said they would similarly submit new goals this year, while Chile and Vietnam confirmed they would update their 2030 climate goals, and Indonesia “indicated that it is in the process of updating its NDC”, the White House said.

Meanwhile, the US and EU sought to build on the Global Methane Pledge announced in Glasgow last autumn by announcing that they had established a new “global methane pledge pathway” which calls for the elimination of routine flaring at oil and gas plants as soon as possible , and no later than 2030. The two governments said they had raised $59mn in funding and “in-kind assistance” to support the pathway, which it said had been backed by governments responsible for two-fifths of global gas production and three- fifths of global gas imports, including Canada, Nigeria, Norway, and Argentina.

And in perhaps the most significant news to be confirmed at the summit, Australia’s new Labor government confirmed it had submitted an enhanced NDC for the end of the decade, pledging to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 against a 2005 baseline.

While the new targets will doubtless be welcomed as progress, critics will point out the overwhelming majority of Forum members did not announce plans to update their climate targets in line with the promises made through the Glasgow Climate Pact to review their NDCs.

COP26 President Alok Sharma welcomed commitments from countries at the meeting to revise their climate goals, noting that the Glasgow Climate Pact signed last November required countries to revisit their 2030 targets to align with a 1.5C warming pathway. “I look forward to their submissions ahead of the UNFCC NDC synthesis report 23 September deadline,” he wrote on Twitter yesterday.

However, there was little to come out of the meeting when it comes to the Glasgow Climate Pact’s seperate pledge for richer nations to ramp up flows of climate finance to poorer nations. The communique notes that leaders attending the meet “highlighted the importance of scaling up finance and investment and underscored the economic and social benefits of a just energy transition”. But it contains no further detail on how leaders intend to deliver on their international commitment to mobilise more than $100bn annually for poorer nations, and redress their failure to meet the goal in 2020 and 2021.

Echoing warnings that he issued just a few days before in Vienna, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres argued that the leaders assembled at the Major Economies Forum needed to go further to tackle climate change, by stepping up their investments in renewables, fast tracking approval processes for new clean energy projects, and shifting subsides away from fossil fuels.

“The climate crisis is our number one emergency, he said. “Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century, together with all the new technologies that President Biden has referred to. I count on your governments to end the age of fossil fuels.”

With discussions on climate finance expected to dominate proceedings at the COP27 Climate Summit, there is growing recognition that rich nations will need to break with their underpowered climate finance record and come to Egypt with some sort of fresh offer on climate finance. At the same time, the biggest emitters will need to honor the commitment to review their NDCs – something which should be within their scope given the likes of the UK, EU, US, and others have already introduced new clean tech-focused energy security strategies in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last week’s Major Economies Forum suggested progress is being made, but richer nations appear to be a long way from finalising a deal that could both ensure global emissions peak as soon as possible and guard against the very real risk of the next round of climate talks resulting in an ill-tempered stalemate.

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