Sustainability Climate Change

New alarming UN report warns current climate plans will provide less than 20 percent of what’s needed

climate change crisis greenhouse gas emissions agriculture united nations UN oxford 64 percent global 50 countries world population emergency urgent action initiatives land conservation
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Story at a glance

  • The Emissions Gap Report released Tuesday says global climate change pledges are not drastic enough.
  • The report says the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.
  • Delaying climate change action could result in catastrophic changes in Earth’s climate.

The United Nations released its Emissions Gap Report on Tuesday and painted a bleak picture of current climate change efforts. The report warns that the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years to avoid catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate.

In 2015, the Paris climate agreement was created to incentivize countries to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible so the planet could be a climate neutral world by mid-century. It was adopted by 196 countries and required plans for climate action, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The treaty aimed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

However, Tuesday’s Emissions Gap Report said despite the pledges made by countries around the globe to adhere to the Paris climate agreement, the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N.’s environment programme, said, “these pledges are still ambiguous, delayed in many cases and not folded into NDCs.” 


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All of the current pledges would take off 7.5 percent off the predicted 2030 emissions, only limiting global warming by about 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. A 30 percent reduction is needed to keep global warming at 2 degrees Celsius and a 55 percent decrease in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

“We have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly,” said Andersen.

The report also points out that G20 members, which includes the United States, don’t currently have policies in place to achieve their NDCs, much less net zero carbon emission goals. 

However, the report calculates that half of the G20 members are likely to achieve their original, unconditional NDC goals, while two countries, India and Turkey, have not submitted new or updated NDCs that reduce emissions. The report also calls on Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and the United States to implement stronger climate policies to achieve their prior NDCs under the Paris agreement.

The world has already gone up in temperature by 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times. That’s brought deadly heat waves, droughts, wildfires and more. It has displaced thousands of people and resulted in massive economic losses. 

The Emissions Gap Report comes on the heels of the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, U.K., on Oct. 31. World leaders are expected to talk about how to best tackle climate change.

Here in the United States, President Biden is currently fighting for climate legislation in Congress, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, plans to include a series of executive actions that would cut the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions from 50 percent to 52 percent by 2030. 


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