Seven Policy Proposals to Meet the Paris Agreement Objectives

The 2015 Paris Agreement introduced the legally binding goal of maintaining the average global temperature below the pre-industrial revolution average plus 2o Celsius in order to avoid severe stress on natural and socioeconomic systems. The latest scientific evidence suggests that achieving the temperature target set by Paris will demand the world achieves net-zero emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050.1 Against this backdrop, several countries – representing in aggregate 53% of the global economy – have committed to achieving the net-zero emission target.2 The United Nations Climate Conference scheduled for 1-12 November 2021 in Glasgow will take stock of countries’ climate plans and seek to enhance the framework for financial, technical and capacity-building assistance, which is important for both Developed Markets (DM) and Emerging Markets (EM). It is already clear that it will not be possible to achieve the Paris Agreement goals under current policies, so more action is required. To ensure success, future action to maximise efficiency and equitability requires that the enormous differences in terms of their emission profiles between DM and EM economies receive full recognition. This report sets out seven policy recommendations for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. Taking explicit account of the differences between DMs and EMs, the report offers proposals for how to measure emissions as well as the actions required of EMs, DMs, and International Financial Institutions (IFIs). The report also suggests how to increase private sector involvement, correctly price carbon sinks, enhance carbon capture in the land-use sector and get the financial sector more involved. Finally, the report highlights recent policy measures undertaken by the Indian government as part of its contribution to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The 2015 Paris Agreement

The 2015 Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change with the quantitative goal of holding the average global temperature below the pre-Industrial Revolution average +2º Celsius, but preferably +1.5º Celsius. Meeting these goals demands a material reduction in emissions of so-called greenhouse gasses (GHGs), including but not restricted to carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important of the GHGs. Scientists estimated that CO2 emissions must reach net-zero on average by 2050, while total GHG emissions must reach net-zero between 2063 and 2068 in order to meet the +1.5º Celsius target. To meet the less ambitious +2º Celsius target CO2 emissions must reach net-zero on average by 2070, while total GHG emissions will have to fall to net-zero by the end of the century.3 Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, individual countries have to communicate plans and actions to reduce GHG emissions every five years and start to report transparently on actual climate change actions by 2024. Several signatories to the Paris Agreement have already committed to reducing GHG emissions to net zero by 2050. However, the first meeting to communicate plans and actions to reduce GHG emissions did not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced countries to postpone their climate plans to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on 1-12 November 2021.4 In addition to taking stock of climate plans, the Glasgow conference aims to enhance the framework for financial, technical and capacity-building assistance. This is particularly relevant for lower-income EM countries.

Need for more action

It is clear that the Paris Agreement goals are not achievable under current policies (see Box 1). GHG emissions reached their highest ever level in human history in 2019 at 59.1 gigatons equivalent of carbon (GtC).5 Meeting the +2º Celsius target with a 66% probability of success requires a reduction of total GHG emissions to 41 GtC by 2030, while the more ambitious +1.5º Celsius target requires cutting total GHG emissions down to 25 GtC.

The 2020 Emissions Gap Report produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) establishes that current nationally determined contributions (‘NDCs’) – that is, the efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change – will result in a 3º Celsius temperature increase by the end of the century. The report also shows that even if recently announced net-zero emission goals are implemented expeditiously global temperatures will still rise by 2.5º Celsius by the end of the century.6