The world is lagging significantly behind the pace and scale that’s needed to address the climate crisis, according to a new report. Researchers found that governments are failing on almost every policy needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which makes the possibility of limiting global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius almost impossible.

Image credits: Flickr / Gerry Machen.

Countries committed in the Paris Agreement in 2015 to do everything possible to avoid the global average temperature exceeding the 1.5 °C threshold. However, the temperature has already exceeded 1.2 °C and is on its way to reaching 2.7 °C by the end of the century, based on the climate pledges so far presented by countries.

The State of Climate Action report offers a roadmap of how to close the global gap in climate action across sectors. It translates the temperature limit into 1.5-aligned targets for 2030 to avoid intensifying climate impacts. These targets span sectors that account for about 85% of emissions, such as power, transport, forestry and agriculture.

“In a year where climate change has been wreaking havoc across the world, it’s clear global efforts to curb emissions are falling short,” Louise Jeffery, one of the authors of the report, said in a news release. “Continued incremental change is not an option; 1.5 °C is still achievable but we urgently need a step change in climate action.”

Across the 42 indicators assessed, only one — the share of EVs in car sales — is on track to reach its target. Of the other 41 indicators: six are “off track,” moving in the right direction at insufficient speed, 24 are “well off track,” also below the required pace, six are headed in the wrong direction entirely and five have insufficient data.

Ani Dasgupta, the CEO of World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the organizations behind the report, said that while the world has made some progress, this isn’t yet sufficient. “It’s going to take drastic action from all of us — governments, corporations, cities — to embrace the systemic change needed,” Dasgupta said in a news release.

What needs to happen?

Achieving rapid transformations across all sectors to achieve global climate goals will require a tremendous acceleration in climate action this decade. For example, the analysis finds the world needs to:

  • Accelerate the expansion of solar and wind power. While the annual average growth of these technologies in electricity generation has been 14% in recent years, it is crucial to elevate this rate to 24% to align with the 2030 targets.
  • Phase out coal in electricity generation at a rate seven times faster than the current pace. This translates to retiring approximately 240 average-sized coal-fired power plants annually through 2030. However, the continued development of coal-fired power will need an increasing number of closures in the coming years.
  • Significantly enhance the coverage of rapid transit infrastructure at a rate six times faster. This is akin to constructing public transit systems approximately three times the size of New York City’s network of subway rails, bus lanes, and light-rail tracks each year throughout this decade.
  • Address the annual rate of deforestation, equivalent to deforesting 15 football fields per minute in 2022, by reducing it four times faster over this decade.
  • Promote a shift to healthier, more sustainable diets at a rate eight times faster. This entails decreasing per capita consumption of meat from cows, goats, and sheep to approximately two servings per week or less across high-consuming regions (the Americas, Europe, and Oceania) by 2030.

However, some indicators reveal a worrying trend in the most recent year of available data. Deforestation rose from 5.4 million hectares in 2021 to 5.8 million hectares in 2022. Likewise, government financing for fossil fuels saw a big surge in 2021, with government subsidies nearly doubling from 2020 to reach their highest levels in almost a decade.

“Something doesn’t stack up. Clean energy markets are bullish; governments everywhere should be getting in on the act. Yet they continue to use public funds and subsidies to hold onto our fossil past. Meeting our climate goals means closing down coal power seven times faster,” Claire Fyson, one of the report’s authors, said in a news release.

The good news

Despite the grim reality, there are promising signs of progress. In a positive shift noted for the first time in the State of Climate Action series, the proportion of electric vehicles in passenger car sales is advancing, having more than tripled since 2020. This creates benefits for public health, the economy and the climate, the researchers argued.

The findings come two weeks before countries gather at the UN climate change conference COP28 in Dubai, where they are expected to discuss ways to increase climate ambition. Countries are currently negotiating a target to be announced at COP28 to triple renewable energy capacity by the end of the decade while increasing climate finance.


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