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Source: Small Island Developing States

18 September 2019: “A path exists to 1.5°C, but the window for achieving it is declining rapidly,” concludes a joint report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNFCCC, which assesses “whether the Paris Agreement is working.” Titled, ‘The Heat is On: Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition,’ the report seeks to contribute to increased ambition, acceleration and mobilization of climate action by 2020.

The report was launched ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, which took place on 23 September.

Five years since the launch of a joint UNDP/UNFCCC support programme for countries in developing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the 2019 NDC Global Outlook Report assesses progress under the two broad trajectories adopted by countries to fulfill their Paris Agreement targets: revision of existing climate plans to 2025 or 2030 by around 112, primarily developing, States, which represent 53% of global GHG emissions; or preparing longer-term strategies to decarbonize the economies of 53, mostly industrialized, countries by 2050.

The report highlights some positive trends since 2015, including: the increased recognition by governments that climate is inseparable from wider societal goals to eradicate poverty and hunger and reduce inequality; a focus on strengthening systems and putting in place the required “NDC architecture” for successful implementation; and a higher priority for climate policies in national planning. It also highlights as important elements in building momentum for change the growing engagement of diverse non-state actors and the leadership of young climate activists who are demanding system change and more accountability from carbon-intensive industries.

However, the report also identifies a number of bottlenecks, stating that despite a 17% increase in climate-related finance flows in the wake of the Paris Agreement on climate change, reaching USD 681 billion in 2016, finance remains the most critical factor limiting raised ambition in developing countries. Other barriers in developing countries include the lack of awareness about climate change, unreliable data and the need for better linkages between climate targets and existing policies, strategies, plans and budgets.

Either we wave goodbye to our carbon dependence and build a future to be proud of, or we go over the edge.

The report further expresses concern about the lack of firm commitments by 71 countries, “including most developed nations” who represent 21% of global GHG emissions. It notes that 41 countries “are still deciding how they intend to approach their NDC revisions and 10 did not provide any information on their intentions,” while the remaining 20 countries intend to submit revised NDCs but are still seeking the means to do so. It calls on these countries to fulfill a pledge made at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Japan in June 2019 to “communicate, update or maintain our NDCs [by 2020], taking into account that further global efforts are needed.”

Citing UNFCCC analysis, the report states that, at current ambition levels, existing NDCs set the world on track for a rise in emissions of about 10.7% above 2016 levels by 2030, which is starkly at odds with the UN Secretary-General’s call for governments to come to the 2019 Climate Summit with pledges consistent with reducing global GHG emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, in order to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal.

In her opening remarks at the launch event, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed described the report as “the most comprehensive snapshot to date of whether the world is on track.” She expressed hope that the findings spur those countries who have not yet decided on their course of action, “particularly the big-emitting countries,” to be ambitious.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner stressed that this year’s Climate Summit must mark a key turning point where humanity “waves goodbye to its carbon dependence to build a future to be proud of, or go over the edge.” Welcoming increased ambition from 75 countries representing 37% of global GHG emissions that include “those countries most vulnerable to and least responsible for rising temperatures,” he noted that half the world’s population is engaged in a proactive transformation of their economies to low carbon.

Steiner introduced UNDP’s Climate Promise, which aims to scale up support for enhanced national climate pledges by 2020. Implemented in the framework of the UN System Joint Approach on NDCs and in collaboration with key partners, the initiative commits USD 25 million to support 100 countries to accelerate the enhancement of national climate pledges by 2020, building on existing support to NDCs in over 140 countries.

The launch event concluded with a preview of ‘Mission 1.5,’ an interactive digital media experience that aims to contribute to increased mobilization of citizens in the next generation of climate action. [Publication: The Heat is On: Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition] [UN News Story] [UNDP Press Release] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UN Deputy Secretary-General’s Statement] [UNDP Administrator’s Statement] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on UNDP Support for Accelerated Action on the SDGs and Paris Agreement]

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