Story at a glance

  • Even if all the current commitments under the Paris Agreement are met, the UN expects temperatures to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius — or 5.76 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Warming can still be restricted to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, but it will require annual emission cuts of 7.6 percent globally over the next decade.
  • Still, the UN emissions gap report makes clear that “solutions, and the pressure and will to implement them, are abundant.”

If global greenhouse gas emissions don’t decrease by 7.6 percent every year between 2020 and 2030, the world won’t be able to get on track toward the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, warns a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report released Tuesday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has cautioned that warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius would increase both the frequency and intensity of climate impacts like heat waves and storms. Climate change can still be restricted to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, but it will require annual emission cuts of 7.6 percent globally over the next decade.

“Solutions are available to make meeting the Paris goals possible, but they are not being deployed fast enough or at a sufficiently large scale,” reads a statement from UNEP, which published the annual emissions gap report.

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The UN expects that temperatures will rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius, even if all the current commitments under the Paris Agreement are met. That’s why the UN report says that nations need to boost their ambitions in order to produce the drop in emissions needed for the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal. In fact, collective ambition must increase more than fivefold to meet this goal. As the report notes, the knowledge exists — in terms of technologies and policy — to cut emissions, but transformations have to begin immediately.

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions –  over 7 percent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director. “This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action.”

Together, G20 nations produce 78 percent of global emissions. Yet, the vast majority of them (a total of 15 G20 members) have not committed to a timeline for net-zero emissions, the report says. Still, the report makes clear that “solutions, and the pressure and will to implement them, are abundant.” That “pressure and will” has been evident in the events of this year from the increased pressure on large oil corporations to the youth climate strikes and protests from Extinction Rebellion activists taking place around the world.

Now, as Andersen pointed out, “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated. If we don’t do this, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”

Published on Nov 26, 2019