(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) Each year for the last decade, the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report has compared where greenhouse gas emissions are headed, against where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Each year, the report has found that the world is not doing enough. Emissions have only risen, hitting a new high of 55.3 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018. The UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2019 finds that even if all unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement are implemented, we are still on course for a 3.2°C temperature rise.
Our collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts. This report tells us that to get in line with the Paris Agreement, emissions must drop 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 for the 1.5°C goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2°C goal. The size of these annual cuts may seem shocking, particularly for 1.5°C. They may also seem impossible, at least for next year.
But we have to try. We have to learn from our procrastination. Any further delay brings the need for larger, more expensive and unlikely cuts. We need quick wins, or the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement will slip out of reach. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned us that going beyond 1.5°C will increase the frequency and intensity of climate impacts, such as the heatwaves and storms witnessed across the globe in the last few years. We cannot afford to fail.
This is the tenth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report. It provides the latest assessment of scientific studies on current and estimated future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and compares these with the emission levels permissible for the world to progress on a least-cost pathway to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” has become known as the ‘emissions gap’.
Reflecting on the ten-year anniversary, a summary report, entitled Lessons from a decade of emissions gap assessments, was published in September for the SecretaryGeneral’s Climate Action Summit.
The summary findings are bleak. Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global GHG emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. However, behind the grim headlines, a more differentiated message emerges from the ten-year summary. A number of encouraging developments have taken place and the political focus on the climate crisis is growing in several countries, with voters and protestors, particularly youth, making it clear that it is their number one issue. In addition, the technologies for rapid and cost-effective emission reductions have improved significantly.
As in previous years, this report explores some of the most promising and applicable options available for countries to bridge the gap, with a focus on how to create transformational change and just transitions.
Reflecting on the report’s overall conclusions, it is evident that incremental changes will not be enough and there is a need for rapid and transformational action.
What’s new in this year’s report?
- GHG emissions continue to rise, despite scientific warnings and political commitments.
- G20 members account for 78 per cent of global GHG emissions. Collectively, they are on track to meet their limited 2020 Cancun Pledges, but seven countries are currently not on track to meet 2030 NDC commitments, and for a further three, it is not possible to say.
- Although the number of countries announcing net zero GHG emission targets for 2050 is increasing, only a few countries have so far formally submitted long-term strategies to the UNFCCC.
- The emissions gap is large. In 2030, annual emissions need to be 15 GtCO2e lower than current unconditional NDCs imply for the 2°C goal, and 32 GtCO2e lower for the 1.5°C goal.
- Dramatic strengthening of the NDCs is needed in 2020. Countries must increase their NDC ambitions threefold to achieve the well below 2°C goal and more than fivefold to achieve the 1.5°C goal.
- Enhanced action by G20 members will be essential for the global mitigation effort.
- Decarbonizing the global economy will require fundamental structural changes, which should be designed to bring multiple co-benefits for humanity and planetary support systems.
- Renewables and energy efficiency, in combination with electrification of end uses, are key to a successful energy transition and to driving down energy-related CO2 emissions.
- Demand-side material efficiency offers substantial GHG mitigation opportunities that are complementary to those obtained through an energy system transformation.
Takeaways from the report:
To limit temperatures, annual emissions in 2030 need to be 15 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent lower than current unconditional NDCs imply for the 2°C goal; they need to be 32 gigatonnes lower for the 1.5°C goal. On an annual basis, this means cuts in emissions of 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 to meet the 1.5°C goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2°C goal.
To deliver on these cuts, the levels of ambition in the NDCs must increase at least fivefold for the 1.5°C goal and threefold for the 2°C.
Climate change can still be limited to 1.5°C, the report says. There is increased understanding of the additional benefits of climate action – such as clean air and a boost to the Sustainable Development Goals. There are many ambitious efforts from governments, cities, businesses and investors. Solutions, and the pressure and will to implement them, are abundant.
As it does each year, the report focuses on the potential of selected sectors to deliver emissions cuts. This year it looks at the energy transition and the potential of efficiency in the use of materials, which can go a long way to closing the emissions gap.
For more details click below to download full report.