Deep reductions in CO₂ are not enough

By Rodolfo Lacy, OECD Environment Director

From the melting of the poles to the weakening of the ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics into the North Atlantic, every day the planet sends stronger signals of a climate crisis. On 9 August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the first installment of the Sixth Assessment Report, emphasising, among other findings, that GHG emissions are not decreasing, on the contrary, they keep rising.

The world risks global warming of beyond 1.5°C (and even 2°C) this century, unless we achieve deep reductions in CO2 and other GHG emissions. We are faced with an increase in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.

With these risks in mind, it is essential to strengthen public policies at all levels – from local to international levels – to achieve the transition to net zero and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Countries need better tools to tackle climate change

In May 2021, the OECD launched the International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC). This initiative aims to support countries’ efforts to progress towards net-zero GHG emissions and more resilient economies by 2050. Through regular monitoring, policy evaluation and feedback on results and good practices, IPAC will help countries strengthen and coordinate climate action and complement and support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement.

More countries, subnational entities, organisations, and businesses need to adopt net-zero targets for 2050 or sooner

There has been welcome progress at the national level towards Net Zero. Of 50 IPAC members[1], 12 now have net-zero targets enshrined in their national law, 3 have proposed laws in the legislature, and 18 have included net-zero targets in official policy documents. European Union member states are covered by a regional net-zero target. IPAC will support national efforts to achieve net-zero and help align countries’ economic and social development priorities with the need to protect planet earth.

Country action alone is not enough to reach net-zero. Subnational governments, cities and business also have an important role to play in scaling up climate action. In this sense, the Global Climate Action portal, launched by United Nations in 2014, has registered almost 25,000 actions from cities, companies  and organisations seeking to address and combat climate change.

It is vital that long-term climate strategies are developed and enshrined in law

Without these signals of resolve and certainty, it will be challenging to marshal political will to make cuts in key sectors in the short-term. According to Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, all parties “should strive to formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.” Nevertheless, to date, only 32 parties have submitted long-term strategies (LTS) to the UNFCCC secretariat, whereas 25 of these strategies are IPAC participating countries and the European Union[2].

There has been a stagnation in the funding and implementation of climate technologies

Even though most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 come from technologies that are currently available, according to the International Energy Agency, progress is slow and there are many sectors resisting the transition. The implementation of feasible economically viable strategies that foster these kind of technologies, the needed policies to deploy them massively, and the allocation of funds for green projects have not evolved fast enough. Energy efficiency and decreasing fossil fuel consumption are vitally important for reducing CO2 and other GHG, as well as short-lived climate pollutants.

A remarkable opportunity in an urgent crisis

COP26, which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021, is an exceptional opportunity to finalise the Paris Agreement Rulebook, increase financial flows and enhance progress towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience. The OECD will be actively supporting this collective effort. The range of OECD contributions will be hosted on an online Virtual Pavilion through our Climate Hub.

Further reading

International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC):    

OECD work on climate change:

OECD work on environment:

[1] All OECD member countries along with the European Union, OECD key partners (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa), OECD candidates (Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Peru Romania), and other G20 states (Saudi Arabia, Russia).

[2] Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union.

5 Comments on “Deep reductions in CO₂ are not enough

  1. Rodolfo, desafortunadamente en Mexico las metas de reduccion de emisiones GEI no se van a cumplir y mira que sigo luchando para que me hagan caso, te felicito por tu articulo, Saludos Miguel Angel


  2. At this point I’m appreciative of any steps in the right direction. So lowering these levels can make a difference.


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