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Climate Pledges Are Falling Short, and a Chaotic Future Looks More Like Reality

At last year’s global climate summit in Glasgow, countries pledged to redouble their efforts to cut the emissions from burning oil, gas and coal that are dangerously heating the planet. They also agreed to increase funding for technologies to help developing economies transition away from fossil fuels to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

The United Nations report analyzed the commitments made by countries to cut their emissions, known as nationally determined contributions, or N.D.C.s. Countries that signed the 2015 Paris agreement promised to update and strengthen their commitments every five years. The 2020 meeting was postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, acknowledging the urgency of the climate crisis, nations agreed not to wait another five years and instead pledged to make new commitments before the climate talks that begin Nov. 7 in Egypt.

Taryn Fransen, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, a research organization, called the current trajectory of global temperature increase “dangerously high.”

China, currently the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is one of the major holdouts on new commitments, though it did submit a new pledge before last year’s summit in Scotland. China has said its carbon dioxide emissions will continue to grow until they peak by 2030, but it has not set targets for reducing other greenhouse gases, such as methane, which it emits in amounts large enough to equal the total emissions of smaller nations.

Last year, China said it would stop building coal-burning power plants overseas. As of August, 26 out of 104 such projects had been shelved, preventing 85 million tons of carbon dioxide from being added each year into the atmosphere, according to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

An analysis by the World Resource Institute found that current promises by nations would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by around 7 percent from 2019 levels, even though six times that, a reduction of 43 percent, would be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Of the major economies, we have seen a few countries update this year. India formalized its commitments; Australia updated theirs when they got a new government in place; Indonesia followed through,” said Ms. Fransen of the World Resources Institute. “But each of those countries had failed to update their N.D.C.s until now, so they are making up for lost time.”

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