COP26 week 1: Gap narrows to keep 1.5C alive – but commitments must now double down

To keep 1.5°C alive, annual CO2 emissions in 2030 need to be reduced by further 22 Gt; at the end of COP26 Week one, commitments (if delivered) would close that gap by 9 Gt, leaving ~13 Gt to go, says new analysis. By Climate Champions | November 6, 2021
  • The world came into Glasgow with a question: can collective action by government, industry and civil society keep the prospect of holding warming to 1.5°C in reach?
  • New analysis previewed today by the Energy Transition Commission suggests that, if delivered in full, commitments made by the close of the first week at Glasgow could deliver 9 Gt of the further 22 Gt reduction in CO2 emissions required to achieve 1.5°C.
  • Action on methane is also crucial to achieving 1.5°C, with an estimated 40% reduction required in 2030 annual methane emissions needed compared to the business as usual pathway. The same analysis finds that, if delivered, commitments by the close of the first week at COP26 would account for one-third of this 40% reduction. 

To achieve 1.5°C, both CO2 emissions and methane emissions in 2030 needed to be lower than what a business as usual pathway would deliver. Action by the close of the first week of COP26 has begun to narrow the gap between what annual CO2 and methane emissions in 2030 are expected to be, and what they need to be to achieve 1.5°C.

Leading into COP26 national decarbonization pledges (Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs), made as part of the Paris Agreement, fell far short of keeping the planet’s average temperature rise within 1.5°C, as noted in an earlier analysis by the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) published in September. The same analysis identified a set of technically and economically feasible actions which, if implemented in the next decade, could keep the world on a pathway to 1.5°C.

New analysis, published on November 6, looks across those same actions, assesses the potential impact of total commitments to date by the close of the first week of Glasgow in bending the curve towards 1.5°C.

The research reflects new public and private sector commitments made during the first week of COP26, and the additional commitments made by the private sector through the UN Race to Zero in the run up to COP26 which were not reflected in the initial analysis of the emissions gap in September. These commitments would need to be fully executed to have the effect detailed.

The new data and analysis by the Energy Transition Commission was previewed by the organisation’s Chair, Lord Adair Turner,  at the headline event “Destination 2030” at COP26 on Friday November 5.


Explaining the numbers

Emissions are measured in gigatons (Gt).

To achieve 1.5°C, CO2 emissions need to be 22 Gt lower in 2030 than the current pathway would deliver 

  • The Energy Transition Commission analysis in September 2021 noted that on a business as usual pathway, annual CO2 emissions in 2030 would be ~43 Gt (based on Climate Action Tracker analysis).
  • To keep on a pathway to achieve 1.5°C, it is estimated that annual CO2 emissions in 2030 need to fall by ~22 Gt to reach ~21 Gt.
  • For further details see the ETC’s Keeping 1.5°C Alive report published in September

CO2 emission commitments (if delivered) would close 9 Gt of the 22 Gt gap

The 9 Gt figure is estimated based on successful delivery of action in three areas:

  1. NDCs: representing an additional 3 Gt of commitments (3 Gt CO2 is the estimated carbon dioxide impact of the NDCs, taking the mid-point of the estimated impact range of unconditional (2 GtCO2e) and conditional (5 GtCO2e) commitments)
  2. The COP26 sector initiatives announcements: representing an additional 3.7 Gt
    • 3.5 Gt from leaders declaration on Forestry and Land Use, if supported by appropriate finance and delivered
    • 0.2 Gt from the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement
    • Further reductions could be delivered through additional commitments that have been made across a range of areas (incl. Products Efficiency Call to Action, agriculture commitments)
  3. In addition, country, company and financial sector commitments, including those made as part of the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign have the potential to deliver an additional 2.5 Gt

This includes commitments from companies in key sectors that will deliver emissions reductions announced before Glasgow, but which were not considered as part of the Energy Transition’s analysis in September estimating a 22 Gt gap. This reflects that changes in the real economy are accelerating action on climate change beyond country NDCs. 

o   1 Gt from the power sector (e.g. PPCA, Race to Zero renewables, Just Transition Energy Partnership and other commitments)

o   1.5 Gt from transport (e.g. Race to Zero + other initiatives)

o   Further commitments are expected over the coming week.

For Methane

  • For a 1.5°C consistent pathway, methane emissions need to be reduced by around 35-40% by 2030.
  • The recent ETC report noted the potential to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2030, through a 60% reduction in fossil emissions and a 30% reduction in agriculture and waste emissions. These reductions are equivalent to 130 MtCH4.
  • The Global Methane Pledge has been signed by over 100 countries, representing around 45% of global methane emissions, aiming to reduce global methane emissions by 30%.
  • If methane was reduced by 30% in each of the listed countries, this would reduce emissions by 50 MtCH4 of the 130MtCH4 of methane emissions reductions identified by the ETC.



The Glasgow Climate Pact for business: ambition, action and collaboration

Cop26 provided an opportunity for businesses to present their plans and discuss with their peers, value chains, policy makers and civil society what it takes and what is needed. They all recognize that this cannot be done alone. Their message is loud and clear: Collaboration, collaboration and collaboration, says Maria Mendiluce, CEO of We Mean Business Coalition.


A COP26 message from the Champions on a Glasgow Pact for 1.5

“To ensure commitments are followed through, our work ahead focuses on turning pledges into near term plans and enhancing accountability for delivering on commitments through better tracking of progress and impact.” A message from High Level Champions for Climate Action, Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Munoz.