7 December 2020
WRI Report Assesses Progress, Opportunities to Align Emissions Trajectories with 1.5°C
Photo Credit: Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash
story highlights

The report assesses progress towards 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets across 21 benchmark indicators in the power, buildings, industry, transport, forests, and agricultural sectors.

The report finds progress on fifteen indicators, with two indicators showing a sufficient pace of progress to achieve the 1.5°C goal, and two indicators headed “in the wrong direction altogether”.

The report emphasizes that with targeted proactive investment it is still possible to achieve the 1.5°C target.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and ClimateWorks Foundation have released a report that assesses progress and opportunities to align emissions trajectories with the global average temperature increase of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The publication explores global and country-level emissions progress across six key sectors.

The report titled, ‘State of Climate Action: Assessing Progress toward 2030 and 2050,’ evaluates progress towards 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets across 21 benchmark indicators developed by the Climate Action Tracker and WRI in the power, buildings, industry, transport, forests, and agricultural sectors. According to the report, two benchmark indicators – agricultural crop yields and ruminant meat consumption – show an historic rate of change sufficient to meet emissions reduction targets. Thirteen of the indicators, including the share of renewables in electricity generation, energy intensity of buildings, carbon intensity of cement production, share of electric vehicles in annual new car sales, and gross tree cover gain, present “change headed in the right direction,” but at a pace too slow to achieve the targets. Two of the indicators – deforestation and emissions from agricultural production – show historic rates of change headed in the wrong direction. Four indicators do not offer sufficient data for analysis.

WRI highlights some of the impacts of climate change, such as the spread of wildfires, increased intensity of storms and heatwaves, the breakup of ice sheets, and disappearance of glaciers. In order to limit warming to 1.5°C, WRI states, global emissions must be halved by 2030, which will require significant financial investment, technology transfer, and capacity building in developing countries. Halving emissions by 2030 also requires a fivefold acceleration in the share of renewables in electricity generation, the increase of annual tree cover gain, and the phase out of coal in electricity generation. Additionally, the carbon intensity of electricity generation will need to be reduced by a factor of three, the uptake of electric vehicles will need to increase 22 times the rate of uptake from recent years, and the share of low-carbon fuels must increase eightfold.

The report notes that exponential systemic change is achievable, proven by transitions caused by the advent of technology in cars, telephones, and computers. While climate finance has increased significantly across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, the report argues it has not yet achieved the scale needed to revolutionize energy, transportation, and energy efficiency, and protect forests. The report states an estimated USD 1.6 trillion – 3.8 trillion is needed on an annual basis through 2050 to transform the global energy sector alone.

As countries update their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) ahead of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference and develop long-term low-emission development strategies (LEDS), and trillions of dollars are mobilized to support COVID-19 recovery, the opportunity still exists to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the report notes. This, WRI emphasizes, will require smart and proactive investments in key sectors. [Publication: State of Climate Action: Assessing Progress Toward 2030 and 2050] [WRI Press Release]

By Gabriel Gordon-Harper, Thematic Expert on Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

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