Global Climate Ambition Increasing, but More is Needed

Published Oct 30, 2015

Washington (October 30, 2015)In reaction to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat’s synthesis report released today, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Oxfam America joined efforts to highlight unprecedented and growing momentum towards the Paris climate change negotiations and to urge a scaling up of ambition to address the gap that remains.

“The past 12 months have seen unprecedented climate commitments from governments, business and cities,” said Lou Leonard, vice president of climate change at WWF. “Nearly 160 national targets have been submitted by governments and political support for action is growing, not only in the United States and Europe, but within developing countries of all sizes from China, Mexico and India to Tanzania and the Marshall Islands. But yet, much more is needed.”

The UNFCCC report shows that the targets on the table only get us about half way toward the pathway needed to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. So while they welcome the progress made, the groups warn that the current level of collective ambition is well below what is needed.

“This ambition gap won’t be closed in Paris,” said Jake Schmidt, director of international program at NRDC. “But we cannot ignore it or simply kick the problem down the road for 10 or 15 years. Paris can and should set us on a course to immediately begin to tackle this challenge.” 

They pushed for a 3-part plan to address the gap in mitigation ambition, including: (1) 5-year review and revision cycles in the Paris agreement designed to spur progressively more fair and ambitious commitments by all countries, (2) scaled up cooperative action led by quantified targets by the United States and other developed countries to provide the support needed to help developing countries such as Mexico, India, and Indonesia to implement the additional actions outlined in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that are conditioned on external finance and technology support; and (3) a permanent action agenda where high-level champions bring together governments, businesses and others to accelerate emissions cuts, supported by technical experts and incentives to unlock current barriers to action.

“Growing public concern about the mounting impacts and costs of climate change; the rapidly declining costs of wind, solar, and other clean energy technologies; and the wave of actions being taken by businesses, cities, states and provinces all give me hope that we still have a shot at closing the ambition gap the report so clearly documents,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for UCS. “What’s needed now is bold and courageous action by leaders, ministers, and negotiators to produce an agreement in Paris that’s up to the challenge.”

The groups also noted that even if the Paris agreement addresses the ambition gap and limits warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, the impacts of climate change will continue to increase in the decades ahead. So in Paris, the groups warned, governments must also address the need for increased support for adaptation actions, especially by the most vulnerable countries.

“These projections also show why it's critical to achieve scaled-up support for adaptation finance in Paris, linked to the strength of the mitigation commitments on the table,” said Heather Coleman, Climate Change program manager at Oxfam America. “The world's poorest people who are on the frontlines of climate change should not pay the biggest price.”

The groups underscored that there is still time for world leaders deliver this plan to keep a safer future within reach. They called on the United States and other governments to use the weeks that remain to bring together this kind of agreement and realize the promise of Paris to become a turning point in the fight against climate change.