Global emissions must be cut a further 25% beyond existing pledges if we are to have any chance of minimizing dangerous climate change, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its annual Emissions Gap report on Thursday, which tracks humanity’s progress in restricting global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C. Despite the progress seen in the wake of 2015’s historic Paris Agreement, signed at the UN climate conference in Paris in December, more needs to be done — much more, according to UNEP. Specifically, the report shows that emissions in 2030 are expected to reach 54 to 56 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, well above the 42 gt we need to reach to limit global warming to 2°C this century.
Subsequently, even if pledges made as part of the Paris Agreement are fully implemented, the report concludes that we are likely on track for a temperature rise of 2.9°C to 3.4°C by the end of this century. Further, the report concludes that waiting to increase ambitions will likely see us lose any chance of being able to meet the 1.5°C target, as well as locking in the use of carbon-intensive technology and raising the cost of any subsequent global transition to a low-carbon economy.
Global greenhouse gas emissions under different scenarios and the emissions gap in 2030
“We are moving in the right direction: the Paris Agreement will slow climate change, as will the recent Kigali Amendment to reduce HFCs,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “They both show strong commitment, but it’s still not good enough if we are to stand a chance of avoiding serious climate change.”
“If we don’t start taking additional action now, beginning with the upcoming climate meeting in Marrakesh, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy. The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver. The science shows that we need to move much faster.”
The authors of the report conclude from the very outset that “The strengthened long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement require even stronger actions than previously identified, calling for accelerated efforts pre-2020, as well as increasing the ambition of the Nationally Determined Contributions.” Postponing decision-making and further ambitious targets beyond 2020 is only going to set us on the backfoot moving forward.
The report isn’t all doom and gloom, however, as it also presents an assessment of the technologies and opportunities available to further cut emissions. While this obviously requires countries and governments around the world to modify their targets, the report also focuses on non-state actors and the role that they can play in reducing emissions. These actors include the private sector, cities, regions, and other subnational actors. According to the report, these non-state actors could cut several gigatonnes of carbon emissions off the current emissions gap by 2030 in areas such as agriculture and transport.
Overview of sectoral distribution of 203 mitigation-focused International Cooperative Initiatives.
Energy efficiency is another area the report highlights as bringing a potential cut to the emissions gap. The report refers to studies which have shown that investment of between $20 and $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide, energy emissions reduction potential in gigatonnes by 2030 are 5.9 for buildings, 4.1 for industry, and 2.1 for transport. Already investments into energy efficiency increased by 6% in 2015, reaching $221 billion. Further, a new report published by the 1 Gigaton Coalition shows that renewable energy and energy efficiency projects implemented in developing countries from 2005 to 2015 are already set to reduce emissions by approximately half a gigatonne by 2020.
“Internationally supported projects on renewable energy and energy efficiency are making significant contributions to reducing global greenhouse emissions,” said Mr. Børge Brende, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Thanks to the work of the 1 Gigaton Coalition we can measure and report the impact of these projects to see how far we still have to go to reach the climate goal. This is how the coalition aims to inspire countries around the world to raise their action and ambition on climate change through the energy sector.”