The Financial Times has created a searchable dashboard of 193 countries’ historical emissions and future climate targets, as well as information on the energy mix that indicates their progress on renewable energy, using data from Climate Watch and the International Energy Agency.

Countries that signed up to the Paris agreement were asked to submit improved national targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The 2015 Paris accord goal is to limit global warming to well below 2C since pre-industrial times, and ideally to no more than 1.5C. Global warming is estimated by scientists to be at 1.1C already.

The legally binding country targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are called nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

China, the world’s biggest annual emitter, has yet to formally submit its updated target. In September 2020, it announced an intention “to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030” and to be carbon neutral by 2060.

The US, the second-biggest emitter on an annual basis but the biggest historically, has lifted its ambitions under President Joe Biden. It has set an economy-wide target of cutting net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

This will still leave the US with more emissions per capita by the time the target is reached than any other of the world’s largest polluters making commitments for the same date.

The choice of different baseline years by countries is another of the complexities in setting targets, making direct comparisons difficult. Baseline years often coincide with historical peaks in national emissions.

The less stringent measure of carbon intensity is also used by developing countries to design targets that allow for growth. It is calculated per unit of gross domestic product, to take into account the rise of emissions through economic expansion. China and India use carbon intensity.

In 2015, the year of the Paris accord, emissions from human activities were nearly 47bn metric tons of greenhouse gases, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents. By 2020, this level was an estimated 52bn metric tons.

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