Greenhouse gas reduction pledges countries have submitted to the United Nations in advance of global climate talks set the planet on a path that keeps critical climate goals out of reach.
That's according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a project of four research organizations that assesses nations' climate pledges and actions. It released its findings Wednesday as talks are underway in Bonn, Germany, where global delegates are working to streamline the draft text for the UN climate change summit in Paris in December, known as COP21.
"One would have expected all the new Government climate targets combined to put the world on a lower emissions pathway, but they haven’t," said Louise Jeffery of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
CAT analyzed what are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by 15 governments, which together cover 64.5% of global emissions. Taken collectively, their plans would fail to avert a potentially disastrous level of warming, the analysis found.
"It is clear that if the Paris meeting locks in present climate commitments for 2030, holding warming below 2 degrees C could essentially become infeasible, and 1.5°C beyond reach," said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, which joins the Potsdam Institute as one of the four organizations comprising CAT.
It classified seven of the INDCs as inadequate, six as medium, and two as sufficient.
The United States was among those given the medium rating. That status, CAT states, "indicates that the U.S. climate plans are at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution."
CAT states that its "analysis shows that in order to hold global warming below 2°C, governments need to significantly strengthen the INDCs they have submitted to date."
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Regardless of pledges, some climate activists expect little progress from the Paris meeting.
As Alex Scrivener, policy officer at Global Justice Now, wrote at Common Dreams last month, COP21 won't be the answer to climate change. That's because "it will not be dealing with the underlying problem—the unfair economic system that puts the interest of fossil fuel addicted corporations above those of the people," he wrote.
"So instead of being distracted by the false hope of a summit breakthrough, we should concentrate on putting pressure on our politicians to reduce emissions at home and building a broad and diverse movement to change the political context of climate policy. This means fighting trade deals that bestow rights on fossil fuel corporations. It means fighting the politics of austerity that forces us to accept ‘cheap’ coal instead of investing in clean, democratically controlled energy systems. And it also means fighting against the privatization of energy globally," Scrivener writes.
The need for mass popular mobilizations to effect such change was also stressed in a joint statement recently issued by key leaders from the global climate justice movement.
"For more than 20 years, governments have been meeting, yet greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased and the climate keeps changing. The forces of inertia and obstruction prevail, even as scientific warnings become ever more dire," the statement reads.
Yet "our actions are much more powerful than we think."
"In the past, determined women and men have resisted and overcome the crimes of slavery, totalitarianism, colonialism or apartheid. They decided to fight for justice and solidarity and knew no one would do it for them. Climate change is a similar challenge, and we are nurturing a similar uprising," they write.