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Environment

US and China miss deadline for setting CO2 action targets

New pledges from 75 parties 'fall far short' of needed carbon cuts: UN

A wind turbine in the Netherlands. The European Union aims to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.

BRUSSELS/TOKYO -- The U.S., China and India, top sources of greenhouse gases, have yet to commit themselves to more ambitious carbon dioxide reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, signaling the enormous challenge the world faces to avert climate catastrophe.

Revised action plans required by the accord were provided by 75 countries and regions by the end of 2020, according to the analysis released Friday by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Those countries represent just 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. The U.S. and China, which together account for nearly half of all emissions, as well as No. 4 source India, were not on the list.

The U.N. analysis projected that implementing the 75 submitted plans would lead to generating the equivalent of 13.67 billion tons of CO2 in 2030, 2.8% lower than in the previous targets and only 0.5% less than those parties' combined 2010 emissions.

"We are very, very far from where we need to be," U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa said. "What we need to put on the table is much more radical and much more transformative than we have been doing until now."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed the sentiment. "The major emitters must step up with much more ambitious emissions reductions targets for 2030," Guterres said in a statement.

The estimated cuts in these plans "fall far short of what is required" to limit global warming to 2 C above preindustrial levels -- the target under the Paris Accord -- let alone the desired target of 1.5 C, the report warned.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that emissions must fall between 25% and 45% from 2010 by 2030 to limit global warming to the range of 1.5 C to 2 C.

New climate pledges submitted to the United Nations would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by less than 1%.   © Reuters

The accord requires countries to submit "nationally determined contributions" on climate action every five years after the initial round in 2016. The U.N. encouraged countries to send in plans by the end of 2020. Among the countries and regions that compiled targets were the European Union, the U.K. and Japan.

Washington, which has returned to the Paris accord under President Joe Biden, is expected to set new 2030 targets ahead of an Earth Day summit in April. Biden has laid out ambitious climate goals, including a "a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035."

Beijing has also indicated it is willing to update its pledges. The U.N. will push for parties to the agreement to send new plans before the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in the U.K. this November, and revise the analysis accordingly.

The EU now targets a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, and the U.K. a 68% cut over the same period -- both larger than their original goals. But together they generate only about 10% of global emissions.

While Japan provided an updated plan, it is not off the hook, as it left its targets unchanged. Tokyo intends to put together a basic energy plan by summer, then start revising its goal of a 26% reduction in emissions from 2013 levels.

"We need stronger policies to realize a decarbonized society by 2050," Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi has said.

Tokyo's slow progress on climate change could pose problems for Japanese companies operating abroad as the environment becomes a bigger factor in business decisions.

"We are strongly concerned about Japan's inaction as it could imply to overseas business partners and investors that Japanese businesses are facing increasing climate risks," the Japan Climate Leaders' Partnership, a group of nearly 170 companies with more than $1 trillion in total annual sales, said last year.

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