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Recent national climate commitments from the big emitters

May 6, 2021
News item image Making ambitious national climate commitments is a great step towards tackling climate change, but these commitments also needed to be acted on rapidly - leaving all the work until the last minute could have devastating consequences.

Over the last couple of months, some of the countries responsible for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions have made enhanced climate commitments. However, progress on the ground has been limited and in Brazil’s case, backwards:

– The top two highest emitting countries, China and the US, agreed in April that they are committed to working together to address climate change, stating that they will continue to discuss “concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions”. There is still a long way to go for either country to be on track to meet the Paris Agreement; for example, a recent report found that China would need to close 588 coal-fired power stations.

– At the Climate Summit hosted by the US in April, the Brazilian President pledged to double the budget for environmental enforcement and end illegal deforestation by 2030; however, the very next day he approved a 24% cut to Brazil’s environment budget compared to 2020.

– The US has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least half 2005 levels by 2030. This strengthens a previous commitment made by Barack Obama, which was to cut emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.

– The UK, which is responsible for 5% of historical emissions despite being home to just 0.9% of the global population today, has now pledged to cut emissions by 78% by 2035. For the first time this commitment covers emissions from international aviation and shipping, a significant step forward.

– Germany’s highest court has ruled that some components of the country’s climate legislation are unconstitutional because they place a large burden on younger generations to reduce emissions. Currently Germany is committed to reducing emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030; the court has given the government until the end of 2022 to set clearer targets for reducing emissions after 2030.