Climate change: What is my country doing about it?

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The agreement stresses the importance of limiting long-term warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – the time before humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels – in order to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

This goal was first agreed in 2015, when nearly 200 countries signed a landmark deal in Paris.

However, meeting this target will require steep and rapid cuts to emissions of the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet.

Use the interactive chart below to see which countries are on track with their commitments to meet the Paris climate goal of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees.

Are countries on track to meet their climate pledges?

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Not all countries can independently afford the same kinds of emissions-reducing actions.

Some less affluent countries set two different goals – one they aim to meet completely on their own, and a more ambitious one they aim to meet if they can get support from wealthy donors. We’ve only shown the independent targets here.

But the emissions debate is more nuanced than simple reductions.

Historical responsibility for climate change is not shared equally across all nations. So, a group of independent researchers at Climate Action Tracker  have devised a method to calculate what they call the “fair share” targets. This considers a country’s historical contributions to total global emissions, as well as their current levels.

Countries that have contributed only a marginal amount to the overall total have a lesser “fair share” of responsibility than those that have been heavy emitters for many years.

How do fair share contributions compare?

By looking more closely at some individual countries, we can get a better sense of whether they are on or off track.

China

China is currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

And while it is less responsible for past contributions to global warming, China’s rapid economic growth in recent years has begun to tip that balance.

Some of this growth has gone hand in hand with the world’s fastest transition to renewable energies.  China leads the world in its adoption of solar, wind and electric transportation.

But it has continued to rely heavily on coal, with no promised end.

China is also the world’s leading methane emitter and it has not yet joined the more than 150 countries who have signed up for the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

US

After China, the United States ranks second for annual emissions.

Recent policy changes have taken steps towards meeting its targets. The Inflation Reduction Act was the country’s largest single investment in climate action.

And a joint statement with China ahead of COP28 promised the two countries would step up their cooperation on issues such as reducing methane and tripling renewable energy uptake. The statement fell short of setting new ambitious targets, though.

Bernice Lee, a distinguished Fellow at Chatham House and an expert on China, told the BBC at the time of the statement: “My suspicion is that it has proven to be too difficult to find the form of language that works for both. But nonetheless, I think it’s good that they have a statement that’s focused on the things they agree on, which is, obviously, the renewables and methane.”

But the US is still a long way from reaching its stated emissions goals, and it has continued to approve new oil drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

Brazil

One year into his presidency, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has made some progress on reversing the destruction of the Amazon that took place under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

In November 2023, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced that deforestation in the Amazon hit a six-year low.

In a healthy state, the Amazon rainforest takes up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helps limit global warming – but  rapid deforestation  is harming its ability to do this.

Brazil has restated its emissions pledges, but it continues oil exploration and plans to align itself more closely with the group of leading oil-producing nations – Opec – in future, undermining the ambitions announced.

UK

The UK has been relatively successful at cutting its emissions so far. Progress has been largely driven by decarbonising the power sector, by switching away from coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – towards natural gas and, more recently, renewable sources like wind and solar energy.

But recent progress has been “worryingly slow”, putting the UK’s long-term carbon cutting targets at risk, according to the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee.

Mark Maslin, professor of Earth system science at UCL, told the BBC: “UK progress toward net zero has been poor in 2023.

“This is because the government has weakened many of its green policies and granted new oil and gas licences, which are incompatible with a net zero future,” he added.

The government said the licences would slow the decline in domestic production of oil and gas and secure domestic energy supply.

Some recent global developments have been positive.

At COP28, the world agreed the need to “transition away” from fossil fuels for the first time – although the deal doesn’t go as far as many had hoped.

This comes alongside a goal to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, building on the strong recent growth of these technologies.

Countries also agreed to implement a specific “loss and damage fund”,  seen as a major win for developing nations.

This money will help poorer countries cope with the destruction caused by extreme weather. These events are getting worse in many places as the world warms.

Despite some positive signs, the world is “not on track” to limit global warming to 1.5C, the UN says.

The hope is that the agreements at COP28 will translate into meaningful action to keep this target within reach.