With the growing carbon emissions gap, countries will have to increase their carbon-cutting ambitions fivefold to avoid global warming more than 1.5C, the UN says. Even if all current promises get fulfilled, the world will warm by more than double that amount by 2100 as per the annual emissions gap report.
Richer countries couldn’t cut emissions quickly enough, the authors say.
Out of the 20 wealthiest nations, fifteen have no timeline for net-zero targets.
Just after the World Meteorological Organization’s report on greenhouse gas concentrations, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has published its regular snapshot of the world’s performance on cutting levels of these pollutants.
The emissions gap report finds the underlying difference between the carbon needs to be cut to avoid dangerous warming and the promises that countries have currently committed to, in the Paris climate agreement.
The UN assessment is reasonably blunt. “The summary findings are bleak,” it says. “Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.”
Last decade, emissions went up by 1.5% per year, the report says, and the total reached 55 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2018, putting the Earth on course to experience a rise in temperature of 3.2C by the end of this century.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned last year that human, plant, and animal life across the planet would face hugely damaging effects if temperatures are allowed to rise more than 1.5 degrees this century.
As per the report, the world needs to cut emissions by 7.6% every year for the next decade to keep this target alive.
“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7% each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director.
The report particularly highlighted the actions of the wealthiest countries. Out of the group of the 20 wealthiest countries (G20), that are responsible for 78% of all emissions, only the EU, the UK, Italy, and France have committed to net-zero targets in the long run.
The seven G20 member countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the US need to take further action for achieving their current promises.
For example, Brazil’s plans were recently revised, “reflecting the recent trend towards increased deforestation.”
India, Russia, and Turkey, these three countries are all on track to over-achieve their plans by 15%, which the authors of the report say is because of the too low targets they set themselves in the first place.
For Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, the researchers are not sure whether they are meeting their targets or not.
And the remaining three countries or regions include China, the EU, and Mexico, which are set to meet their promises called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) with their current policies.
The UN says the target of 1.5C will be missed by a significant amount unless there will be serious upgrades to most countries’ plans.
“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger NDCs to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies,” says Inger Anderson.
“We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” she added. “If we don’t do this, the 1.5C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”
Some specific actions are outlined in the report for different countries in the G20.
Argentina is recommended to work harder to shift the public towards the widespread use of public transport in big cities. China is urged for banning all new coal-fired power plants, but recent research casts doubt on that.
The energy system attracts the biggest focus of action. This massive scale of change would require the world to bear expenditure up to $3.8 trillion per year between 2020 and 2050 to hit the 1.5C target, the study says.
The report reinforced that time is running short, and UN negotiators gearing up to meet next week in Madrid at COP25 are feeling the pressure to increase their ambitions on carbon.
“This is a new and stark reminder by the UNEP that we cannot delay climate action any longer,” said Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for the ecological transition.
“We need it at every level, by every national and subnational government, and by the rest of the economic and civil society actors. We urgently need to align with the Paris Agreement objectives and elevate climate ambition.
“It would be incomprehensible if countries who are committed to the United Nations system and multilateralism did not acknowledge that part of this commitment requires further climate action. Otherwise, there will only be more suffering, pain, and injustice.”