Weekly wrap: India rounds off week of climate pledges

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National pledges steer a lower-carbon path to Paris, but don't go far enough (Pic: Flickr/Justin Brown)

National pledges steer a lower-carbon path to Paris, but don’t go far enough
(Pic: Flickr/Justin Brown)

By Megan Darby

Thursday was UN deadline day for national climate pledges and 146 countries delivered, accounting for 90% of global emissions.

India left its submission to the last minute, timing its domestic launch with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. The nation’s founding father would have approved, we assume.

While New Delhi’s emissions intensity target was not as strong as some had hoped, its vision for low carbon development was broadly welcomed.

The other big one this week came from Brazil, which boasted of being the only developing country to target absolute emissions cuts.

Petropowers held out, meanwhile, with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Nigeria some of the biggest emitters to ignore the UN timeline.

Alex Pashley rounded up nine things we learned from the process.

Ambition gap

Where does all this get us? The UN will produce an official assessment ahead of December’s Paris summit, but in the meantime analysts are coming up with their own numbers.

Climate Action Tracker estimates that if fully implemented, the plans will hold warming to 2.7C this century. That is an improvement on the research group’s 3.1C projection last December, but falls short of the international 2C goal.

Using a different methodology, US forecaster Climate Interactive came up with 3.5C, compared to 4.5C with no action.

Either way, there is more to do. Campaigners say a Paris deal must include a long-term goal and 5-yearly reviews to ramp up ambition. Megan Darby analysed the task ahead.

Finance wake-up call

The Bank of England issued a landmark report about climate risk for the financial sector.

In a speech to UK insurers, governor Mark Carney warned investors could face major losses if they failed to account for global warming.

“Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late.”

He urged the G20 to coordinate a disclosure drive, forcing companies to reveal their exposure to physical, liability or transition risks posed by climate change.

Green skies

Major airlines reaffirmed their commitment to curbing the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In an open letter, chief executives covering 90% of global air traffic promised to stabilise emissions from 2020 and halve them by 2050.

The main lever will be a carbon offsetting scheme, to be agreed at a UN aviation summit next year.

Brown seas

The UN’s shipping chief Koji Sekimizu, on the other hand, argued a maritime emissions cap would damage the economy.

He warned UN climate negotiators not to try and impose a target, saying the International Maritime Organization was “the only place” for that debate.

Campaigners disagreed, saying the maritime regulator had proved incapable of showing the “tough love” the industry needs.

Arctic reprieve

Shell has stopped drilling in the Arctic “for the foreseeable future”, after failing to find enough oil and gas to make it worthwhile.

While the oil major cited costs and regulatory uncertainty, campaigners were confident their work had something to do with the decision.

“This has become the most controversial oil project in the world, and despite its bluster Shell has been forced to walk away with nothing” – Kumi Naidoo, chief executive of Greenpeace

Carbon Tracker’s Anthony Hobley was not impressed it had taken US$7 billion of shareholders’ money to reach that “common sense” conclusion.

Nor was he convinced by the Shell-backed “Energy Transitions Commission”, launched this week to burnish the sector’s green credentials.

Coming up in October

5-8: IPCC meeting (Dubrovnik)
9-11: IMF/World Bank annual meeting (Lima)
12-13: EU-Morocco INDCs forum (Rabat)
12-23: UN desertification summit (Ankara)
19-23: Interim climate talks (Bonn)
26-30: IEA Bioenergy conference (Berlin)

Cash on the table

France and the UK promised extra funds to help the world’s poor go green and protect against climate change impacts.

In the biggest climate finance push to date from a developing country, China said it would launch a South-South fund with US$3.1 billion.

Climate lawsuits

The Dutch government has confirmed plans to appeal a court ruling that would force the Netherlands to deepen its emissions cuts.

Campaign group Urgenda expressed confidence in the outcome of the appeal.

A similar case is under way in Belgium, while environmental lawyers are tooling up in Norway, France, Switzerland and Australia.

Read more on: UN climate talks