Pledges from climate talks not enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, IEA says

Dec 10, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: Dec 12, 2023, 1:52 pm

Steam and smoke rise from the Belchatow Power Station in Rogowiec, Poland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Image...

Steam and smoke rise from the Belchatow Power Station in Rogowiec, Poland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — The world is still off track to limit global warming to the crucial 1.5-degree threshold, despite pollution-slashing pledges made by dozens of countries at UN-backed climate talks in Dubai, an analysis by the International Energy Agency published Sunday shows.


The assessment is the first comprehensive report card on what the COP28 climate talks in Dubai have so far achieved.

The results show that the commitments would slash greenhouse gas emissions by 4 gigatons — less than one-third of what is now required to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above temperatures before industrialization. Science shows that life on Earth will struggle to adapt beyond that point.

An IEA statement said the pledges “would not be nearly enough” to keep global heating to 1.5 degrees.

Executive Director Fatih Birol said the pledges were “positive” and in line with some of the recommendations the IEA had made ahead of the talks. But he said not enough countries had joined them and that commitments to ensuring a decline in fossil fuel use was needed to bridge the gap.

“The IEA’s very latest assessment of these pledges shows that if they are fully implemented by their signatories to date, they would bridge only 30% of the gap to reaching international climate goals,” Birol told CNN. “There is a need for more countries and companies to join the pledges — and for agreement on an orderly and just decline of global fossil fuel use if we want to keep the 1.5 °C goal in reach.”

Negotiators at COP28 are discussing an agreement in which they could call for the phase-out of fossil fuels — the main driver of climate change — for the first time at the annual climate talks.

Language on fossil fuels has been highly contentious, and there are deep divisions over the issue. More than 100 countries support a phase-out in some form, but some oil-producing nations don’t want any reference to reducing oil and gas at all.

The IEA analysis was based on pledges around renewable energy, energy efficiency and the reduction of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

More than 120 countries, including the United States, have now agreed to support tripling the world’s renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency measures.

Fifty major oil and gas companies, including Exxon and Saudi Aramco, also signed a pledge at the talks to cut methane emissions from their oil and gas operations by the end of the decade. That means a reduction in methane intensity of around 80 to 90% from their products. They also agreed to end routine flaring by 2030. Flaring is the deliberate burning of natural gas during oil extraction. Companies sometimes flare natural gas to depressurize systems during oil drilling, though at other times, flaring occurs when an operator doesn’t need or want to collect all the gas available, often because it’s cheaper to burn it than collect it.

Fossil fuel consumption is the main driver of the climate crisis. Countries agreed to a phase-down in coal production in 2021 at the COP26 talks in Glasgow, Scotland, but negotiations on language around all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, are proving more contentious.

The talks are happening at the tail-end of a year hit hard by the worsening climate crisis. Scientists have confirmed that 2023 is officially the hottest on record. Extreme weather events made more likely or intense by the climate crisis — including fires, floods, heatwaves and hurricanes — have claimed lives in many parts of the world.

The COP28 presidency responded to the IEA’s assessment, saying the progress it outlined showed “a major breakthrough,” adding “no previous COP has achieved so much so soon.”

COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber told reporters earlier that progress in the negotiations on a final agreement, however, were not moving fast enough.

“Am I satisfied with the speed and the pace? The answer is ‘No,’” he said on Sunday before convening a roundtable of ministers to try and break the impasse over several issues, including the future of fossil fuels.

“Time is ticking. The clock is ticking, and I’m sure you can all hear it, just like how I am able to hear it,” he said, “and we need to move much, much, much faster.”

Al Jaber has been the subject of controversy for months, well before the talks began on November 30. The United Arab Emirates has been accused of a conflict of interest in appointing Al Jaber to chair the talks as he also runs the country’s state-owned oil and gas company, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

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Pledges from climate talks not enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, IEA says