Call for governments to ramp up climate action | WWF South Africa

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Call for governments to ramp up climate action

Emission cuts pledged by governments are woefully inadequate to bridge the emissions gap in 2030, according to a new UN report.

The UN Environment Emissions Gap Report 2018 has been released just a few days before the next round of climate talks in Katowice, Poland, begins on the 3rd of Dec, 2018. It assesses the difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” –to address climate change. The report’s core message is that the emission cuts pledged by governments are woefully inadequate to bridge the emissions gap in 2030 and the measures being implemented currently are nowhere close to meet the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

The report found that:

  • after three years of stabilisation, the global CO2 emissions again increased in 2017;

  • while the technical feasibility of remaining within the global warming of 1.5 Deg C is still possible, if Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) ambitions are not increased before 2030, then “exceeding the 1.5 Deg C goal can no longer be avoided”;

  • nations need to raise their climate action ambition by three times to meet the 2 Deg C warming target and five times to meet the 1.5 Deg C warming target.

The emissions gap, particularly to stay below 1.5 Deg C warming, has increased significantly. Countries need to move rapidly for implementing their current NDCs, as well as develop significantly ambitious NDCs by 2020 and beyond.

While G20 member countries are collectively on track to achieving the target emission levels in 2020, they are off track to realise their NDCs for 2030. A worrying pattern is that around half of the G20 members’ GHG emissions trajectories – including that of South Africa – fall short of achieving their unconditional NDCs.

The implications of the findings are clear – countries not only need to strengthen the ambition of NDCs at the international level, they also need to strengthen the implementation of domestic policies for achieving temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.

The report recommends that countries need to realise the technical potential to reduce emissions in three broad areas: renewable energy from wind and solar, energy-efficient appliances and cars, and afforestation and stopping deforestation.

While national governments need to play the most important role for reducing the emissions gap, non-state and subnational action could be significant but their contribution needs to be assessed comprehensively. The report particularly highlights the importance of fiscal policy reform and innovation.

It emphasises “embedding carbon pricing in fiscal reform packages that are progressive, equitable and socially acceptable, and incentivising investment in new and job-creating industries”. It also suggests that green policies should not look at each sector separately but should set direction for the economy as a whole.

WWF South Africa Senior Policy Analyst, Dr Prabhat Upadhyaya, comments: “The Emissions Gap Report emphasises the urgency for governments to act decisively on climate change. It has also issued a call for action to each and every one of us to step up to be carbon neutral by 2050. We definitely need to make even more ambitious commitments in the next NDCs but even more importantly we need to support on-the-ground policy implementation.

“The South African government is pursuing various domestic policy processes for reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, namely the Climate Change Bill, Carbon Tax and the Integrated Resource Plan. While these are welcome, they are not ambitious enough.

“The government needs to act decisively and create conditions that support South Africa’s just energy transition in a time-bound manner. This includes legislating fiscal instruments such as the carbon tax and gradually increasing the carbon price, enabling sectoral interventions to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, weaning ourselves off our fossil-fuels addiction by reducing subsidies to carbon-intensive industrial processes and supporting non-state and subnational action.

“We can strengthen the implementation of our policies by enhancing institutional capacity and promoting behaviour change. We need to change the politics, not the climate!”

To safeguard our collective future, we need to fast-track access to renewable energy.

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