Letter

Key indicators to track current progress and future ambition of the Paris Agreement

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Published online:

Abstract

Current emission pledges to the Paris Agreement appear insufficient to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels1. Yet, details are missing on how to track progress towards the ‘Paris goal’, inform the five-yearly ‘global stocktake’, and increase the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We develop a nested structure of key indicators to track progress through time. Global emissions2,3 track aggregated progress1, country-level decompositions track emerging trends4,5,6 that link directly to NDCs7, and technology diffusion8,9,10 indicates future reductions. We find the recent slowdown in global emissions growth11 is due to reduced growth in coal use since 2011, primarily in China and secondarily in the United States12. The slowdown is projected to continue in 2016, with global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry similar to the 2015 level of 36 GtCO2. Explosive and policy-driven growth in wind and solar has contributed to the global emissions slowdown, but has been less important than economic factors and energy efficiency. We show that many key indicators are currently broadly consistent with emission scenarios that keep temperatures below 2 °C, but the continued lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage13 threatens 2030 targets and the longer-term Paris ambition of net-zero emissions.

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Acknowledgements

G.P.P., R.M.A. and J.I.K. acknowledge the support of the Research Council of Norway (projects 569980 & 209701). J.G.C. is grateful for the support of the National Environmental Science Program—Earth Systems and Climate Change (NESP-ESCC) Hub.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Center for International Climate and Environmental Research—Oslo (CICERO), 0349 Oslo, Norway

    • Glen P. Peters
    • , Robbie M. Andrew
    •  & Jan Ivar Korsbakken
  2. Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, GPO Box 3023, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

    • Josep G. Canadell
  3. Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, 10829 Berlin, Germany

    • Sabine Fuss
  4. Department of Earth System Science, Woods Institute for the Environment, and Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Robert B. Jackson
  5. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

    • Corinne Le Quéré
  6. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Schlossplatz 1, 2361 Laxenburg, Austria

    • Nebojsa Nakicenovic

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Contributions

G.P.P., J.G.C. and C.L.Q. designed the research; G.P.P. and R.M.A. performed the analysis; all analysed the results; all wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Glen P. Peters.

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