This week, a top scientific body studying climate change released a terrifying report. The world has just a decade to take “unprecedented” action to cut carbon emissions and hold global warming to a moderate — but still dangerous and disruptive — level. That would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of the world’s economy, one of such scale and magnitude that it has no historical equivalent.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that nearly every country will need to significantly scale up the commitments made under the 2015 Paris climate accord if humans hope to avoid disaster. Under that agreement, 195 countries pledged to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions to try to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius.
But it’s hard to imagine that will happen, as almost no country is doing a good job meeting the relatively modest goals in place. (The United States was a signatory of the 2015 Paris agreement, but last year President Trump announced that Washington was pulling out of the pact.)
The Climate Action Tracker, a project run by a group of three climate-research organizations, has been monitoring the progress of 32 countries in meeting the Paris accord goals. Taken together, those 32 countries account for 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The tracker’s goal is to provide an “up-to-date assessment of countries' individual reduction targets and with an overview of their combined effects.” It looks at how much greenhouse gas each country emits right now; what it has committed to change on paper; and how well it’s following through on those promises.
As the graphic below shows, the group found that most major polluters are making few, if any, efforts to meet their goals. By Climate Action’s calculations, “critically insufficient countries” failed to even commit to cutting emissions significantly on paper. Only seven countries have made commitments or efforts that would achieve the goal of the Paris accord.
But there are bright spots:
The North African nation is one of only two countries with a plan to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions far enough to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, an important threshold for staving off some of the worst effects of climate change. Morocco has promised to halt its growth of greenhouse gas emissions by commissioning large-scale renewable energy projects. The country has commissioned the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world, scaled up its natural-gas imports and cut back fossil-fuel subsidies. Morocco is on track to get 42 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.
The West African nation is the only other country on track to cut its carbon output in line with a 1.5 degree Celsius rise. According to Climate Action Tracker, it’s one of the only developing countries in the world to lay out a plan that would “bend its emissions in a downward trajectory.” A major part of that plan is a massive reforestation project it’s running to stop environmental erosion and degradation by planting trees.
One of the world’s biggest economies, with one of the fastest-growing renewable energy programs, India could meet its goal of generating 40 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources as early as the end of this year. It has done that by declining to open new coal-fired plants and promoting electric vehicles.
Like most industrialized nations, the United Kingdom is struggling to cut its emissions. But the nation deserves special mention as the only developed economy in the world to create a body to track how well the country is meeting its Paris agreement commitments and how the country could do better. Britain is also working toward an ambitious plan to reduce its emissions to “net zero” by 2050.