Story at a glance
- The latest report from the United Nations Environment Programme found the pandemic-linked drop in this year’s carbon emissions had a “negligible” effect on climate change.
- The world is still on track to see a temperature rise of more than 3 degrees Celsius this century, far beyond the goal of below 2 degrees Celsius.
- The report, however, says there’s significant opportunities for countries to implement green policies and programs as part of the economic recovery that follows the pandemic.
Lockdowns across the globe triggered by the coronavirus pandemic this year shut down businesses, took cars off roads and kept large swaths of the population at home for months, causing a dramatic, but short-lived, plunge in emissions.
The latest report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found the pandemic-linked drop in this year’s carbon emissions of about 7 percent — the sharpest annual fall ever recorded — will have a “negligible” impact on climate change with a 0.01 degree elsius reduction of warming by 2050.
The world is still on track to see a temperature rise of more than 3 degrees Celsius this century.
That’s far beyond the goal of keeping global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
The Emissions Gap Report assesses the difference between projected emissions and the level of emissions needed to be in compliance with the Paris agreement goals.
The report also found total greenhouse gas emissions hit a new high in 2019, reaching a new high of 59.1 gigatonnes. Emissions have increased an average of 1.4 percent each year since 2010. Last year saw a more rapid increase of 2.6 percent due to a sharp increase in wildfires.
While current commitments by nations to reduce emissions remain inadequate to reach the Paris goals, the report says there’s significant opportunities for countries to implement green policies and programs as part of the economic recovery that follows the pandemic.
A “green pandemic recovery” that prioritizes zero-emission technologies and infrastructures, reduces fossil fuel subsidies, no new coal-fired power plants and includes large-scale landscape restoration and reforestation could reduce emissions by 25 percent in 2030 and put the world more inline with the Paris agreement.
“The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc,” Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, said.
“However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap report shows that a green pandemic recovery can take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow climate change. I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of COVID-19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW