Climate Treaty Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Disaster

More than 140 countries have submitted pledges for the UN's global climate talks. Will they accomplish enough to save the Earth?

Climate projections based on UN climate pledges so far
Current climate pledges are not sufficient to keep warming to 2 degrees C. Credit: Paul Horn/InsideClimate News

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If the climate pledges countries have submitted are any indication of whether the world can save itself with a global climate treaty, the planet doesn’t stand a chance.

More than 140 countries have submitted plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on how they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions to fight climate change. These countries account for about 90 percent of global emissions. They form the basis for final treaty negotiations that will take place in Paris in December.

Climate scientists agree that in order to prevent the worst consequences, global warming must be held to within 2 degrees Celsius. The pledges submitted so far will reduce emissions by about 60 gigatons compared to business as usual, but will limit temperature rise to only 3.5 degrees Celsius, according to Climate Interactive, the nonprofit tracking the progress of the global climate change movement.

Current UN climate pledges do not keep the world under 2 degrees of warming

The pledges submitted so far are an encouraging sign that the Paris talks, unlike the unsuccessful ones in Copenhagen in 2009, will produce a binding climate treaty. The question now is how strong and ambitious the agreement will be.

To be fair, these climate pledges are expected to be the starting point for these countries. As countries meet their targets in the coming years, they will review and revise them, potentially increasing the pace of emission reductions.

Whether developing countries such as India commit to further emission reductions will depend on the assistance they receive from wealthier nations. So far, developed countries have pledged to provide about $10.2 billion in financing to poor nations through the Green Climate Fund, but that’s nowhere close to what the developing countries say they need to adapt to climate change.

The Green Climate Fund pledges are falling short of its initial goal