Countries are facing a multitude of complex, even potentially intractable, issues: the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, rising energy prices, inflation, a global economic downturn, and increasing insecurity due to Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, are some of the most significant. These are pressing and difficult, but without a doubt, climate change remains the principal global environmental, economic and social challenge of this century.
Climate change is an existential threat intertwined with multiple environmental concerns and tipping points. It both triggers and intensifies economic and social problems, affecting less developed economies and vulnerable communities more acutely. Global action is urgent, and today’s actions will not only determine the future of the global climate system, but ultimately people’s lives and livelihoods.
Although countries have different development challenges, facing climate change requires shared responsibility and strong, global co-ordinated action. The Paris Agreement has been fundamental in recognising different national circumstances and countries’ varied approaches on climate action, but also the need for global governance and explicit commitments. It is the cornerstone of global action on climate change.
The principal message that emerges from this year’s Monitor is that countries are vulnerable; they are exposed to an increasing number of intense climate-related hazards that affect communities and livelihoods. Mitigation and adaptation must be the focus of countries development strategies. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that countries have made progress, climate action has expanded across the world, but more can and must be done. Ambition needs to increase significantly and action must be effective. Governments have not adopted all the policy instruments available to them or the stringency level to achieve material change. This requires a broad whole-of-government approach not only to deal with the climate crisis, but also to achieve strong, sustainable, fair and resilient growth.
Other key messages that emerge from this report are presented below.
As of 1 September 2022, 136 countries have adopted or proposed net-zero targets. These targets cover around 83% of global carbon emissions. However, considering the full implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (193 NDCs) as of 31 December 2021, including conditional commitments, gross global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are expected to increase by 10.6% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels .
GHG emissions need to decline by 2030 by around 43% from 2019 levels and reach net zero by 2050 to achieve the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century.
For the 51 IPAC countries, who account for around 74% of global net GHG emissions (i.e. including LULUCF), the unconditional combined emission reduction target pledges in 2030 NDCs are estimated at 6 000 MtCO2e, a percentage reduction of approximately 16% of their emissions compared to 2019. This represents a total global GHG emission reduction of approximately 12%. However, ambition levels vary significantly across IPAC countries. More than one-fifth of countries do not have commitments to decrease their emissions below their 2010 levels.
Governments must make significant efforts to achieve the 2030 targets. OECD countries’ combined net emissions peaked in 2007 and have been gradually falling over the past 12 years. This decrease in emissions by 11% is partly due to a slowdown in economic activity following the 2008 economic crisis but also thanks to strengthened climate policies and changing energy consumption patterns.
Countries will have to reduce emissions in the next 10‑30 years to achieve the Paris Agreement targets. Large emitters, such as the United States, the European Union and Japan, have decreased their gross emissions significantly, from 2010 to 2019 by 7%, 14%, and 5%, respectively, but they are still far from their target emission reductions, which require an additional reduction from 2019 to 2030 of 44% (United States), 38% (European Union) and 34% (Japan). In contrast, in many emerging economies, such as Brazil, the People’s Republic of China (hereafter “China”), and India, emissions are still rising and have not yet reached their expected peak. China’s target for peak emission is 2025, their net zero target is 2060.
Transformative changes in energy and production systems are needed to address key drivers behind emissions. Emission intensities per unit of GDP and per capita have decreased since 2005 in most OECD countries, revealing a strong overall decoupling from economic growth. However, further gains in energy efficiency alone will not be sufficient to put emissions on a path to reach net-zero targets.
Without substantially changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, it will not be possible to combat climate change in the long-run. Between 1990 and 2017, the global extraction of raw materials more than doubled. At the global level, the rise in the extraction of raw materials is expected to continue and is projected to double again by 2060 from 2017 levels, exacerbating global environmental impact.
Climate change poses a growing threat by influencing the intensity and the frequency of occurrence of climate-related hazards. Impacts may be gradual, such as those associated with the effects of rising temperatures or drought, or acute and sporadic through shocks, such as flash floods or wildfires. They can affect the economy or human health and well-being directly through the loss of life or the destruction of economic assets and indirectly through the deterioration of the multiple ecosystem services provided by the environment.
Between 1970 and 2019, disasters from weather, climate and water extremes represented 50% of all recorded disasters, 45% of deaths and 74% of related economic losses . The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) assessment reported an almost eightfold increase in average daily economic losses between 1970-79 and 2010-19. This highlights the considerable increase in disasters globally and, together with OECD data on increased exposure to climate-related hazards, emphasizes the vulnerability of IPAC countries’ economies and societies to climate impacts.
Population exposure to extreme heat has been increasing between 1979 and 2020, and potentially exposed 66% of the world population in 2021 to varying duration periods of extreme heat.
The combined challenges of changing temperatures and precipitation highlight the potentially severe implications for food security around the world. Worsening drought conditions on croplands are observed across IPAC countries, in part due to changing temperatures, while a small subset of countries experience increasing cropland exposure to extreme precipitation events.
Wildfires are increasing and are concentrated in specific countries and regions where they can have disastrous impacts. On average, around 1% of land was burned per year over the period 2017‑2021 in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Portugal and South Africa, representing approximately 1.2 million square km which is roughly equivalent to the size of South Africa. Meanwhile, population and forest exposure to wildfire is significant and widespread, posing not only a problem for those countries but also affecting global climate change mitigation efforts.
IPAC countries strengthened their climate action between 2010-2020. More can and must be done. Countries should consider the full range of the 56 policies available and reflect on their stringency to achieve the Paris Agreement targets.
Countries with an above-average number of adopted policies and above-average policy stringency were most successful in reducing GHG emissions. Assessing policy effectiveness involves however a number of additional factors. Heterogeneity in policy adoption and policy stringency partially reflects countries’ different policy approaches and climate ambition that originate from country-specific circumstances, including emissions, drivers, and economic and social constraints
The adoption of international commitments, such as country-level targets, has been key to increase ambition. Almost all countries have implemented NDCs and net-zero targets in 2020. Stakeholders pressure for global climate action, which started around 2013, drove in part the rise in commitments, culminating with the Paris Agreement that was adopted in 2015. However, few countries have supported these commitments by providing accurate climate data, including biennial reports, biennial update reports or GHG emissions data, all of which provide the necessary information for an assessment of national climate policy implementation.
Overall, the adoption of domestic climate policies has increased significantly after 2015. For example, Canada adopted 10 additional policies between 2015 and 2020. However, some countries did not expand their policy adoption and a few others even removed policies. Increase in policy adoption after 2015 has been especially focussed on auctioning renewable electricity, carbon pricing, as well as bans and phase out of fossil fuel equipment and infrastructure such as coal power plants.
Policy packages differ substantially across countries and through time. Some countries, such as Portugal, primarily rely on market‑based policies such as carbon pricing under the EU ETS or Feed‑in‑Tariffs for renewable energy. Others, like Costa Rica, place more emphasis on non-market based instruments such as minimum energy performance standards and bans or phase outs of fossil fuel equipment or infrastructure.
Market-based policy instruments have gained attractiveness compared to other instruments. In the early 2000s, they represented less than 30% of adopted policy instruments; today, they represent almost 50%. This has been driven primarily by the implementation of the EU Emissions Trading System and, subsequently, other carbon‑pricing schemes.
The stringency and coverage for these instruments, however, remains low. Adoption of non-market based instruments have been historically higher than market-based instruments. Most countries have adopted building energy codes, minimum energy performance standards, and – increasingly – bans and phase outs of fossil fuel equipment. However, none of the IPAC countries adopted the highest possible energy performance standard for electric motors by 2020. Adoption of market-based instruments – while increasing – is still low. For example, carbon pricing covers only 50% of energy-related CO2 emissions in OECD and G20 countries with an average effective carbon rate of below EUR 20 per tCO2 – much lower than the price level needed to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement (EUR 50-160/tCO2).