Strengthening implementation of energy-related NDCs to limit global warming
- Mehdi Hussain, assistant professor, department of political science, Kirori Mal College and doctoral research scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
The growing demand for energy due to increasing population and economic growth has come with a concern in terms of its impact on global warming. The Paris Agreement of 2015 intends to keep global warming to ‘well below’ 2°C, and preferably below 1.5°C by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. Thus, countries have pledged to bring down their carbon emissions under their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). A positive trend on the way to reducing global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100 is visible, but still comes short of achieving it.
Power sector is the single largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions, as per the International Energy Agency (IEA), contributing about 32% of global Green House Gases. Major sources of electricity generation, according to IEA, constitutes coal, which produces about 74 % of CO2 emissions, gas (21 %) and oil (5 %). The World Resources Institute’s State of Climate Action 2021 reports that global carbon emission from electricity generation has declined from 643 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (gCO2/kWh) in 1990 to 525 gCO2/kWh in 2018. The European Union (EU) had achieved a reduction carbon emission of 40% from 1990 to 2017. China is in the process of reducing its carbon emission while maintaining its high economic growth rate. However, the report states that global carbon emission should be brought down to 50-125 gCO2/kWh by 2030 and zero by 2050 if we have to achieve 2°C target by the end of the 21st century.
The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), 2020 observes an ‘inadequacy’ in governments’ actions to improve their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets since Paris Agreement in 2015. It states that 127 countries, announced in November, 2020, responsible for around 63% of emissions have committed to net-zero emission by 2050. Big emitters such as the EU, China and the US have submitted their net-zero emission targets. But their present climate change mitigation policies could not achieve the ideal target of a net-zero emission, rather they produced a higher temperature of 0.8°C. For achieving their net-zero goals, it, thus, suggests a need to strengthen their NDC goals for 2030 targets, and close the remaining emissions gap to 1.5°C. Nonetheless, they appreciate India’s actions in lowering its carbon emissions which is in line with global target of 2°C.
The global energy-related targets are sufficient to bring down the global temperature to below 1.5°C. The efforts of countries have had improvements in bringing down the global temperature. According to the CAT, 2020, the real-world action results to the 2020 estimation of 2.9°C of global warming by 2100 showing a decline of 0.7°C from the 2015 estimation of 3.6°C. The decline is the result of a combination of past efforts including NDC implementation, surge in renewable energy consumption, reduction in coal consumption as well as temporary economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. Despite this, the real-world action is still far from meeting the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
A recent example of progressive responses from the governments during the Covid-19 pandemic was their reaffirmed commitment to resort to renewable energy. In 2020, IEA data indicates a significant contribution of about 29 % to global electricity generation coming from renewable sources including hydropower, geothermal, solar, wind, tidal, biofuels, and municipal renewables. However, its share should reach 55% by 2030 and 98-100% by 2050. Thus, a focus on strengthening implementation of their emission containment strategies for 2030 targets should be aligned with the long-term objectives for 2050 targets.
(Mehdi Hussain, assistant professor, department of political science, Kirori Mal College and doctoral research scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)