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As global climate summit wraps up, targets are in sight but out of reach

"Glasgow has a serious credibility gap."

That's the word from climate activists taking stock of the international climate summit organized by the United Nations called COP26 that's now taking place in Glasgow.

New targets to keep the world from warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius point the way to a path to hit the best-case scenario that could avoid catastrophic warming, but the inability to phase out coal and natural gas by 2030 could prove disastrous.

Despite the rosy picture painted by the International Energy Agency, which serves as the official global energy watchdog, current commitments to reduce emissions over the next decade fall short of meeting the 1.5 degree goal.

According to the The Climate Action Tracker, a non-profit monitoring policy initiatives and actual actions taken to mitigate climate change. , with all target pledges greenhouse gas emissions will be twice as high as what's needed to meet the 1.5ºC limit.

Short term targets narrowed the 2030 emissions gap by only 15% to 17% over the last year. That means without longer term targets, the 2030 pledges mean that the world would warm to 2.4ºC in 2100.

Looking at the established policies from countries (and not their proposals to limit warming), projected temperatures around the world could actually warm by 2.7ºC.

These figures don't take into account proposals from India and Brazil to reach net zero by 2070 and 2050, which would bring the world closer to alignment with a 1.5º scenario.

"While the projected warming from all net zero announcements, if fully implemented – the CAT’s “optimistic scenario” – is down to 1.8 ̊C by 2100, this estimate is far from positive news, given the quality of the net zero goals and the massive ambition and action gap in 2030," the climate action group said in a statement.

"The vast majority of 2030 actions and targets are inconsistent with net zero goals" there's a nearly one degree gap between government current policies and their net zero goals," said Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics. "It's all very well for leaders to claim a net zero target, but if they have no plans as to how to get there, and their 2030 targets are as low as so many of them are, then frankly, these net zero targets are just lip service to climate action."

More than 140 governments have announced net zero goals that would cober 90% of global emissions, but the study of 40 countries performed by the climate watchdog show only a small number, covering 6% of global emissions are rated as "acceptable" and have plans in place to reach targets.

"While the wave of net zero targets appears like remarkable news, we can't sit back and relax," said Professor Niklas Höhne, of the NewClimate Institute, a non-profit that helps governments plan and implement renewable energy policy. "In the situation where, even with the new pledges, global emissions in 2030 will sill be twice as high as required for 1.5ºC, all countries must urgently look at what more they can do."

According to the CAT report, what countries can do that they have yet to commit to is phasing out coal and natural gas.

“Coal must be out of the power sector by 2030 in the OECD, and globally by 2040, and in spite of political momentum and the clear benefits beyond climate change mitigation, there is still a huge amount of coal in the pipeline.” said Hare. "We are seeing the rise of a gas industry pushing its product as an alternative, still supported by many governments. We cannot let fossil fuels be replaced with more fossil fuels."

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