The world is clearly witnessing the effects of global climate change day by day, from wildfires to increasingly extreme weather events. Action needs to be taken, and it seems that smaller countries have internalized that notion much quicker, as a group of them submitted new, more ambitious climate pledges to the United Nations this week.
The move raised pressure on big emitters including China to do the same ahead of a major U.N. climate summit in November.
U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa said that as of Saturday the United Nations had received new pledges from 110 countries, out of the nearly 200 that signed the 2015 Paris climate accord.
"It is still far from satisfactory, since only a little over half the parties (58%) have met the cut-off deadline," Espinosa said in a statement, urging laggards to "redouble their efforts" and make more ambitious commitments to protect the planet.
A total of 15 countries – most of them small and with relatively low CO2 emissions – submitted new pledges this week, ahead of a July 30 deadline for them to be counted in a U.N. report.
They included Sri Lanka, Israel, Malawi and Barbados. Malaysia, Nigeria and Namibia were among the larger countries to submit tougher climate targets this week.
But the United Nations' latest analysis of countries' climate pledges said that taken together, they would still lead to global warming far beyond the 1.5 degrees Celcius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) limit above pre-industrial levels that would avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
"I truly hope that the revised estimate of collective efforts will reveal a more positive picture," Espinosa said.
China – the world's biggest emitter of CO2 – and countries including India and South Korea have not yet submitted new climate pledges. They are facing considerable international pressure to do so ahead of the U.N. climate summit.
The United States and the European Union, the world's second and third-biggest emitters, hiked their targets in recent months, promising to slash emissions faster this decade.
Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, an island country near the Equator in the Pacific Ocean that is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, urged rich nations who have not yet hiked their pledges to step up.
"If these major economies submit 1.5C-aligned NDCs, it would make a world of difference," she said. A country's climate pledge is known as a "nationally determined contribution."
Countries that miss the deadline for inclusion in the U.N. report can still submit new pledges before the summit in November, by which time every country is expected to submit a new pledge.
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