Although every country in the world has signed the Paris climate agreement, a global pact meant to keep temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, very few are actually living up to their commitments under the framework, according to the nonprofit Climate Action Tracker (CAT).
That’s alarming because, across the board, the targets set under the agreement are rudimentary. They were voluntarily established to transition to more sustainable economies and they don’t include major structural changes.
Instead, targets mostly revolve around investing in renewable energy, making industries more efficient, and winding down the biggest sources of pollution.
Countries are expected to gradually ratchet up their commitments in the years ahead to allow for the overall agreement to be achieved. But at the current rate of progress, many countries won’t be able to credibly update their targets when they’re next called upon in 2020.
CAT closely monitors the progress of 32 countries with readily available climate data. The group found that many countries are acting as if the agreement doesn’t exist and are taking few steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The worst offenders include the United States, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has rolled back scores of critical climate change regulations and rules and has pledged to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
And despite praise for their climate leadership in recent years, countries like Canada and China are doing so little to reduce emissions that the world could warm by more than 4 degrees Celsius if all countries follow their lead.
Some countries are actually making progress, however.
CAT determined two countries to be global role models: If other countries followed their lead, global temperatures could be kept from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The first role model is Morocco because of its massive investments in renewable energy that put it on track to get 42% of its electricity from clean sources by 2020.
The second role model is The Gambia, which is on track to reduce its emissions by 44% in 2025 compared to business-as-usual.
Five other countries are compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s goal of 2 degrees Celsius.
India is ranked as compatible because it’s on track to get 40% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by the end of the year. The country would be ranked higher if it wasn’t also investing heavily in coal energy.
Costa Rica is also ranked as compatible because of its ambitious carbon neutralization plans. Earlier this year, the President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado announced his intention to ban fossil fuels.
Other countries ranked as compatible include Ethiopia, Bhutan, and the Philippines.
Earlier this week, the United Nations released an exhaustive analysis of the current research on climate change and concluded that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
Based on CAT’s monitoring, the status quo on climate change — of acknowledging the threat but not acting to stop it — still reigns supreme around the world.