But he took issue with some of its country-specific conclusions, especially for the EU. The report uses a stringent method of forecasting whether a country is on track to meet its goals, extrapolating only the policies that are in place today. He predicted that the EU would make its Paris targets by its 2030 deadline, adding that the group must reconcile policies across 28 member states.
“The EU is in fact rushing ahead to meet its pledge,” he said. “You can’t just snap your fingers and make it happen.”
The UN’s dire diagnosis comes as the Paris Agreement faces an ambiguous future. Completed in 2015, the treaty allowed for each country to set its own climate goal. The UN expects each country to increase the ambition of its climate goal over time. But President Donald Trump, who intends to withdraw the United States from the agreement, has damaged this “ratchet mechanism,” Curtin said.
Read: Did Donald Trump just make the planet hotter?
In fact, a global rightward shift on climate change seems to be occurring. In the United States, Trump has undone several major programs meant to limit carbon pollution. In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to pass an energy-reform bill that included modest climate goals, and was promptly ousted by his own party for proposing it. In Brazil, the far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised to strip the Amazon rainforest of its legal protections, possibly clearing the way for logging of such scale as to virtually ensure dangerous climate change.
Even in France, the birthplace of the climate treaty, rioters have taken to the streets this week to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s new climate-friendly tax on gasoline and diesel.
France, Brazil, Australia, and the United States are all members of the G20, an organization of the world’s 20 largest economies or central banks. Drost, the UN officer who helped lead the new report, said the G20 countries are primarily responsible for the growing failure to meet Paris. Taken together, they emit about 80 percent of worldwide carbon pollution every year.
But Drost did not solely blame laggards in the G20, such as Australia or the United States, for failing Paris. A few members of the group—notably India, Russia, and Turkey—will massively overshoot their Paris targets, he said. This suggests that they originally picked goals that were too easy to meet.
The UN report identifies two reasons for the growing gap between the Paris goals and reality. First, worldwide carbon pollution rose in 2017, thanks to growing economies in Asia, booming SUV sales worldwide, and a small increase in coal use in India. This was the first time that global carbon emissions had risen in three years. Second, a blockbuster report released last month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that the world will not be able to directly remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as once thought.