China pledge and Biden win could move climate goals into view, scientists say

LONDON: A potential change in US leadership, combined with China's ambitious new emissions-cutting plan and a European "green recovery", could get the world two-thirds of the way to meeting its climate goals if pledges are met, scientists said on Wednesday (Sep 23).

Democrat Joe Biden, who hopes to beat climate-change sceptic US President Donald Trump in November's election, has promised to set a US goal for net-zero emissions by 2050, while China made a surprise vow this week to become "carbon-neutral" before 2060.

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READ: China's carbon neutral pledge could curb global warming by 0.3 degrees Celsius: Researchers

The European Union, meanwhile, has agreed to spend at least 30 per cent of its hefty coronavirus recovery stimulus on climate action as it advances towards its own net-zero goal, according to new analysis from research coalition Climate Action Tracker.

The three carbon-cutting targets, combined with pledges by smaller nations, would take the world 63 per cent of the way towards the emissions reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, said Niklas Hohne of Germany's NewClimate Institute.

"That's a huge number and totally different to what we saw before," Hohne, a climate scientist and contributor to the tracker, told a New York Climate Week online panel.

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READ: Biden climate plan would spend US$2 trillion in bid to boost economy

If the US policy shift comes through, on top of the EU and China commitments, "there's real hope it can work", he added.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries agreed to hold global average temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, with an aim of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Keeping planetary heating below that level could help avoid some of the worst predicted impacts of climate change, from wilder weather and sea level rise to growing migration and shortages of food and water, scientists say.

But initial pledges under the Paris pact had put the world on a path for about 3 degrees Celsius of warming.

COVID-19 DISAPPOINTMENT

Researchers said the brighter prospects for emissions cuts came despite disappointing progress on making COVID-19 recovery spending green, which is seen as key to driving climate action.

An analysis of 106 economic recovery policies in China, the European Union, India, the United States and South Korea found that only the EU and Korean packages included spending with clear climate benefits.

Much of China's stimulus was an unclear mix of green and "red" measures that could undermine climate action, it said, while India's policies were mostly neutral or potentially damaging – such as a plan to open 40 new coal mines.

LISTEN: Getting down to the big picture science of climate change

The United States had the largest share of clear support for fossil fuels, the analysis showed.

"The overall picture is not looking good," said Deborah Ramalope, head of climate policy analysis at Germany-based Climate Analytics, which helps run the Climate Action Tracker.

A separate index released on Wednesday, exploring the effect of stimulus spending on climate action and biodiversity protection, found that only four G20 country recovery plans would have a net positive benefit on nature and the climate.

READ: Climate change makes dealing with COVID-19 look easy

Overall, G20 governments plan to spend more thanRead More – Source