At least 80 countries are likely to strengthen their commitments to fighting climate change this year, according to the United Nations.
The UN announced the news on Tuesday, saying that some countries plan to increase their pledges at a climate summit scheduled in September, according to the New York Times.
Doing so would put these countries ahead of their climate pledge targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which are scheduled to be re-evaluated and increased in 2020.
Luis Alfonso de Alba, the UN secretary-general's envoy on climate change, declined to name the nations that have signaled these plans to change their pledges, but said he was “hopeful” that China would strengthen its pledges in September.
According to a report released last year by nonprofit Climate Action Taker (CAT), only seven countries were on track to achieve the targets laid out in the 2015 agreement. According to the analysis, which focused on available data from 32 countries, the worst performers included the United States, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia.
Two countries that garnered praise, and were credited as setting global examples, were Morocco and the Gambia. The Moroccan government has invested heavily in renewable energy — by 2020, 42% of its electricity will come from clean sources. And the Gambia is set to reduce emissions by 44% by 2025.
However, China and United States remain the world’s largest contributors of carbon dioxide emissions, and, despite having signed the Paris agreement, are behind in achieving these goals.
The Paris agreement is an international pact signed by 174 countries and the European Union in 2016 to combat climate change. By signing the UN agreement, countries also pledged to aid developing countries in accomplishing their environmental goals. While individual countries set their own targets within the agreement, the overall goal of the pact is limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — and to pursue efforts limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The US, under the Trump administration, announced its decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement in 2017, but it will not officially be able to do so until 2020. However, many environmental policies have already been reversed since then, moving the country in the opposite direction of its commitments under the Paris agreement.
Even if the 80 countries the UN expects to increase their pledges do commit to taking more action against climate change, it's still unknown whether their impact will be enough to curb the current climate crisis.
An “exponential increase in ambition,” de Alba said, is needed. “We need to step up ambition quite radically. We are not talking about a small incremental approach.”
Despite the 80 countries indicating interest in positive reforms, “it doesn’t mean they are ready to do that in the scale we need and by September,” de Alba said.