The G20 nations play a critical role in the fight against climate change, as they are responsible for a staggering 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement aims to combat this by encouraging increasingly ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) every five years. To date, 166 out of 194 Paris Agreement parties have pledged to significantly reduce their emissions.

Despite the strong commitments, according to the 2022 United Nations Environment Program Emission Gap Report, a significant implementation gap exists. The G20 nations are projected to fall short of their NDC targets by 1.8 Gt CO2 annually. The United States, UK, EU27, Japan, Australia, and Indonesia have made significant progress in reducing their emissions, with the majority having already peaked. They have invested in clean renewable infrastructure and made efforts to improve the efficiency of households and industries. A total of 19 G20 nations have committed to achieving net zero emissions, with the majority aiming to reach this goal by 2050.

Worryingly, there is a closing window for countries to implement their carbon reduction goals, with an annual reduction of 7.6% necessary between now and 2030 to meet their 1.5C target. Meeting this goal would require unprecedented levels of international cooperation to achieve the necessary emissions reduction. Maintaining this reduction would result in the achievement of global net zero by 2050. 

The report suggests a four-pronged policy approach to achieving the necessary carbon reductions, these are reducing energy demand, decarbonizing energy supply, decarbonizing land use, and reducing short lived climate pollutants. 

Decarbonizing energy supply has seen the greatest progress relative to the other four strategies, countries must focus on increasing the share of renewable energy sources for their power grids, and continue to invest in wind and solar. They must also continue to explore innovative solutions like electric vehicles and carbon capture technologies. Industrial production must be fully decarbonized by 2050 using these modern green technologies. 

Decarbonizing land use is another avenue for countries to pursue, improving on farm energy use, reducing transport, packaging and retail footprints, soil management, reducing fertilizer use and food waste management are all ways to decrease carbon emissions. Buying local produce, and supporting farmers who demonstrate judicious fertilizer use, soil rejuvenation techniques (common among organic farmers) are ways an individual can reduce their carbon footprint. 

Short lived climate pollutants such as methane, which has a 12-year effect on climate, can produce near term effects. The report encourages a 50% reduction in methane emissions by 2050 as an essential aspect of achieving net zero by 2050. Reducing energy demand can be achieved in the construction phases of new buildings, by reconstructing existing buildings instead of demolition and adopting energy efficient appliances. Retrofitting existing buildings with these modern innovations is an avenue that countries can pursue, 3.5% of buildings need to be retrofitted every year but current rates are below 1%. 

 Here in Canada, our greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990. Canada has failed to meet its 2016 climate goals, which aimed to achieve a 30% reduction of GHG by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050. Canada’s proximity to the artic means it is currently experiencing the effects of climate change, namely, a warmer winter, greater climate extremes, decreases in artic sea ice, with future predictions of extensive ice-free periods in the Baffin Bay and Beaufort Sea.  

Scientists worldwide continue to say that countries must work together and must reduce their GHG emissions rapidly and significantly to avoid experiencing a 2.8C warming by the end of this century. A warming of this scale would result in the acceleration of ecosystem deaths, more weather extremes, increased conflict and greater food insecurity. The closing window to enact meaningful change must impress the urgency of this situation on all of us, as the climate crises worsens, and we are subject to its consequences.