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Friday, November 17, 2023

State of Climate Action Report 2023 finds World behind on almost every policy required to cut carbon emissions

This is a major science based assessment of global efforts for climate action to reduce emissions. It found that Coal must be phased out seven times faster, Deforestation must be reduced four times faster, public transport around the world built out six times faster than at present, to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown. Altogether it found that 41 of 42 indicators assessed were not on track to achieve their 2030 targets. 

Progress for more than half of these indicators remains well off track, such that recent efforts must accelerate at least twofold this decade. Worse still, another six indicators are heading in the wrong direction entirely.

“In a year where climate change has been wreaking havoc across the world, it’s clear global efforts to curb emissions are falling short. Continued incremental change is not an option; 1.5°C is still achievable but we urgently need a step change in climate action. The State of Climate Action report outlines tangible sector-by-sector targets to orient governments in making that step change in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit,” said Louise Jeffery of NewClimate Institute and one of the report’s lead authors.

The report translates  the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets of 1.5°C to well under 2.0°C for 2030 and 2050 to sectorial targets. These amount to about 85 percent of global GHG emissions. The sectors include power, buildings, industry, transport, forests and land, and food and agriculture.  Scale-up of carbon removal technologies and climate finance is also assessed.

Across the 42 indicators assessed, only one — the share of electric vehicles in passenger car sales — is on track to reach its 2030 target. Of the other 41 indicators:

  • Six indicators are “off track,” moving in the right direction at a promising but insufficient speed.
  • 24 indicators are “well off track,” heading in the right direction but well below the required pace.
  • Six indicators are headed in the wrong direction entirely, such that a U-turn in action is required.
  • Five indicators have insufficient data to track progress.

The report says that there is a growing body of evidence that 

"with supportive policies, rapid, nonlinear change is already occurring in some sectors and regions. Over the last five years, the share of electric vehicles (EVs) in light-duty vehicle sales has grown exponentially at an average annual rate of 65 percent—up from 1.6 percent of sales in 2018 to 10 percent of sales in 2022 (IEA 2023e). In the past decade, power generation costs have declined 80 percent for solar photovoltaics (PV) and 65 percent for onshore wind (IRENA 2023b), making these technologies the cheapest sources of new-build electricity generation for at least two-thirds of the global population (BloombergNEF 2020). And the price of battery storage, a technology that enables greater adoption of many renewable power sources, also dropped by 89 percent between 2010 and 2021 (BloombergNEF 2022a). These bright spots show that, under the right conditions, change can take off. Expanding such progress to all sectors will require leaders to prioritize supportive regulations and incentives, investments in innovation and in scaling existing solutions, courageous leadership, institutional strengthening, and behavior change and shifts in social norms."

The report also says that:

  • Although the window of opportunity to limit warming to 1.5°C is narrowing, achieving this Paris Agreement goal is still technically feasible—and the benefits of securing this future are enormous.
  • Justice and equity must take center stage in global efforts to accelerate sectoral transformations.
  • Heading into the first Global Stocktake, the world must face the hard truth that, while meaningful progress has been made across some sectors, collective efforts to first peak and then nearly halve GHG emissions this decade still fall woefully short. 

Status of the 42 Indicators

Right Direction - On Track
Right Direction - Off Track

Right Direction - Well Off Track

Wrong Direction - U-Turn needed.

Insufficient Data

Sector Assessments:

The report is very detailed in its 244 pages, so a closer look at a few sections.

POWER INDICATOR 3: Share of unabated fossil gas in electricity generation (%)

• Targets: The share of unabated fossil gas in electricity generation falls to 5–7 percent by 2030, 1 percent by 2040, and then to 0 percent by 2050.

The share of fossil gas grew from 18 to just over 23 percent of total electricity generation from 2000 to 2019 (Ember 2023). However, it has slightly decreased each year since then, including a decrease in 2022 to reach 23 percent. Unabated fossil gas’s share must be brought down to 5–7 percent by 2030 to align with 1.5°C-compatible pathways, which requires an acceleration more than 10 times faster than the current slightly decreasing linear trend (Figure 11).18 But with the rapid buildup of renewables, the share of fossil gas in power generation could decrease rapidly and nonlinearly.

To phase out fossil gas power at the needed pace,19 zero-carbon energy sources need to be built up quickly, while the construction of new fossil gas power plants needs to be halted. Currently, over 73 percent of power generation from fossil gas is from the developed world.

This rapid reduction in fossil gas power generation should then be driven particularly by phasing out fossil gas in developed countries. As with the coal phase-out, gas plant workers should be retrained or compensated to make sure the energy transition is fair and just. 

What does this imply for Australia? The Federal Government is still approving new gas projects and LNG trains, mostly for the export market. The Energy Transitions means we need to stop openning new gas projects, new gas fields. We need to reduce domestic gas consumption in power. It will still be required for some time, but we need to start reducing its use in electricity generation this decade and be at almost zero by 2040. We also need to phase out domestic fgas use and electrify households.

Global assessment of progress for transport

Increasing Sustainable transport is a particular focus of mine, and transport emissions are at the moment increasing and need to be addressed. Cities and urban areas in particular have solutions to tackle transport emissions with infrastructure and behaviour change. Here is how the report summarises this sector:

Transforming the global transportation sector will require fair, equitable, and rapid change on the roads, in the sea, and in the air. On the roads, fossil-fueled vehicles will need to be electrified, and fossil-fueled cars will need be to be replaced, right-sized, and diminished in number. Many more people will need to use active modes (including walking and bicycling) and shared public transport. They will need to reduce both their reliance on cars and their distances traveled, particularly in regions where car dependency is high. Cities will need to build more rapid transit, bike lanes, and facilities for safe, comfortable walking, as well as implement measures to restrict polluting motor vehicles. Beyond road transport, shipping and aviation must decarbonize through a combination of demand-reduction strategies and clean fuels. Regions and countries will need to identify suitable approaches and pathways based on their demographic background, economic dynamics, and financial and institutional capacity. Access to mobility must be increased where it is low, where active modes or public transit are not available due to poor infrastructure or insufficient safety, and where development patterns require car dependency. 

What needs to happen:

The consensus in the literature (e.g., BloombergNEF 2022a; ICCT 2020; and IEA 2021b) points to a mix of supportive policy measures to transform the transport sector. It indicates the need to avoid motorized travel by planning cities in such a way that motorized travel is not needed, and shifting toward more space- and fuel-efficient, less carbon-intensive modes, such as public transport (Transport Indicator 1) and walking and cycling (Transport Indicator 2). It also stresses the need to improve the space-, material-, and fuel-efficiency of vehicles if we are to reduce the carbon intensity of carbon-intensive travel (Transport Indicators 4–10).

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 1: Number of kilometers of rapid transit per 1 million inhabitants (km/1M inhabitants)

• Target: Across the world’s 50 highest-emitting cities, rapid transit infrastructure, specifically metro, light-rail, and bus rapid transit as measured in kilometers per 1 million inhabitants, doubles by 2030, relative to 2020.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 2: Number of kilometers of high-quality bike lanes per 1,000 inhabitants (km/1,000 inhabitants)

• Target: Across the world’s 50 highest-emitting cities, urban areas contain two kilometers of high-quality, safe bike lanes per 1,000 inhabitants by 2030.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 3: Share of kilometers traveled by passenger cars (% of passenger-kilometers)

• Target: People around the world reduce the percentage of trips made in passenger cars to 35–43 percent by 2030.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 4: Share of electric vehicles in light-duty vehicle sales (%)

• Targets: Electric vehicles (EVs) account for 75–95 percent of the total annual light-duty vehicle (LDV) sales by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 5: Share of electric vehicles in the light-duty vehicle fleet (%)

• Targets: Electric vehicles (EVs) account for 20–40 percent of the total light-duty vehicle (LDV) fleet by 2030 and 85–100 percent by 2050.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 6: Share of electric vehicles in two- and three-wheeler sales (%)

• Targets: Electric vehicles (EVs) account for 85 percent of the total annual two- and three-wheeler sales by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 7: Share of battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles in bus sales (%)

• Targets: Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) account for 60 percent of the total annual bus sales by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 8: Share of battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles in medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle sales (%)

• Targets: BEVs and FCEVs account for 30 percent of the total annual medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle (MHDV) sales by 2030 and 99 percent by 2050.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 9: Share of sustainable aviation fuels in global aviation fuel supply (%)

• Targets: Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) comprise 13 percent of global aviation fuel supply by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

TRANSPORT INDICATOR 10: Share of zero-emissions fuels in maritime shipping fuel supply (%)

• Targets: The share of zero-emissions fuels (ZEFs) in maritime shipping fuel supply reaches 5 percent by 2030 and 93 percent by 2050.

Accelerate Climate Solutions

While identifying the areas the world is not on track, it also proposes what needs to be done. The report argues that an enormous acceleration in effort is required across all sectors to get on track for 2030. Some of the actions needed include:

  • Dramatically increase growth in solar and wind power. The share of these two technologies in electricity generation has grown by an annual average of 14 percent in recent years, but this needs to reach 24 percent to get on track for 2030.
  • Phase out coal in electricity generation seven times faster than current rates. This is equivalent to retiring roughly 240 average-sized coal-fired power plants each year through 2030. Though continued build-out of coal-fired power will increase the number of plants that need to be shuttered in the coming years.
  • Expand the coverage of rapid transit infrastructure six times faster. This is equivalent to constructing public transit systems roughly three times the size of New York City’s network of subway rails, bus lanes and light-rail tracks each year throughout this decade.
  • The annual rate of deforestation — equivalent to deforesting 15 football (soccer) fields per minute in 2022 — needs to be reduced four times faster over this decade.
  • Shift to healthier, more sustainable diets eight times faster by lowering per capita consumption of meat from cows, goats and sheep to approximately two servings per week or less across high-consuming regions (the Americas, Europe and Oceania) by 2030. This shift does not require reducing consumption for populations who already consume below this target level, especially in low-income countries where modest increases in consumption can boost nutrition.


State of Climate Action 2023, 14 November 2023, Published under Systems Change Lab, this report is a joint effort between the Bezos Earth Fund, Climate Action Tracker (a project of Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute), ClimateWorks Foundation, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and World Resources Institute. 


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