Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record last year and the world is “way off track” in capping rising temperatures, according to a report by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The report, released in advance of the COP26 climate change summit which starts in Glasgow next month, showed carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020, rising more than the average rate over the last decade despite a temporary dip in emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises “far in excess” of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century.
“We are way off track,” he said. “We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life,” he added, calling for “a dramatic increase in commitments” the COP26 conference beginning on Sunday.
“It is going to be very, very tough this summit,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference.
“I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done,” he said.
The German government announced Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Glasgow to take part.
However, not all major players will be present. Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person. He and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to make video appearances instead.
Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, added that developed nations are set to be three years late meeting a pledge to commit a total of $500 billion to help poorer countries tackle climate change.
Rich nations vowed in 2009 to deliver $100 billion a year for five years, starting in 2020. But a plan on how to do so, prepared by Canada and Germany ahead of the summit, said the annual target would now not be met until 2023.
“Understandably, this has been a source of deep frustration for developing countries,” Sharma told a news conference. “The aim of putting this plan together has been to rebuild trust … countries will need to deliver on this.”