Paris promises: where the world’s biggest polluters stand

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres holds a press briefing outside of the UN Security Council chambers at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 01 August 2019. [EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE]

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has convened a major new climate summit on September 23 because the world’s main polluters remain well behind their goals as laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Here are where the main players stand in relation to the goals they had set for themselves.


China is on track to meet or surpass its goal for carbon dioxide emissions to peak by 2030.

Beijing has also set a goal of 20% of its future energy mix to come from non-fossil fuels (renewable and nuclear). This goal appears more distant.

United States

Under former president Barack Obama, the US committed to reducing its emissions from 26 to 28% by 2025 compared to 2005.

But his successor Donald Trump announced in 2017 he would be leaving the Paris agreement (though the US remains a part until 2020), and immediately committed to tearing Obama’s plan apart, rolling back limits on coal-fired plants, auto emissions and more.

European Union

The EU is committed to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

The European Commission predicts that this objective will be exceeded, but wants its member states to adopt a more ambitious goal: net zero emissions by 2050.

This would translate into a 50 or 55% reduction by 2030, an objective that the Commission’s incoming President, Ursula von der Leyen, said she will put on the table during her mandate.

Member countries have yet to achieve a consensus on the 2050 goal and negotiations continue.

Green Deal branded as ‘hallmark’ of new European Commission

“I want the European Green Deal to become Europe’s hallmark,” said European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, as she tasked her second-in-command with overseeing Europe’s goal of achieving climate neutrality by mid-century.

Carbon neutral goals

Two small countries, Bhutan and Suriname, are already carbon neutral, according to a study by Britain’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit published in June.

Several others have announced their intention to reach that objective by 2050 or earlier.

Here is a list of those who have codified that goal into their law, or have committed to it as part of their Paris agreement objectives, according to the site

  • By 2030: Norway and Uruguay
  • By 2045: Sweden and the US state of California
  • By 2050: Fiji, France (which holds its final vote on the matter in its upper house in September) and the United Kingdom

But adopting this objective does not signify a country is on track to meet it, as shown by the example of France. A government body ruled in June that the actions undertaken thus far were “insufficient”.

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