Emissions Gap Report: A week before climate talks, UNEP paints a grim picture

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: Nov 28, 2018
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‘Limiting global warming to 2 degree Celsius will be a challenge if gap is not closed by 2030’

With barely a week to go before the world gathers in Katowice, Poland, to discuss implementation of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has come up with a report that says that things are not good enough.

In its annual Emissions Gap Report, the UNEP has said that the promises made by 194 countries in Paris in 2015, called ‘nationally determined contributions’ or NDCs, are not enough to close the ‘emissions gap’ – gap between what the world would end up being and where it would need to be in the year 2030, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

And, if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, there is little chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, over the average temperatures of the pre-industrialised period.

“Pathways reflecting current NDCs imply global warming of about 3 degrees by 2100, with warming continuing afterwards,” UNEP’s EGR 2018 says.

“ A majority of the countries are not yet on a path that will lead to fulfilling their NDCs for 2030,” the report observes.

This, though, is not the first time that the UNEP is making such an assessment of the situation. In fact, this is the third year in a row — each successive year after the Paris Agreement — that the UN body is making a warning.

Emissions untamed

In Paris, countries officially agreed with the scientific community that has been saying that if global warming can be limited to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 over the average temperatures of pre-industrial era, mankind could cope-up with the consequences of such warming. Therefore, came the “2 degree C” target, and an “ambition” of “1.5 degrees C”, which all countries agreed to strive towards.

For the 2 Degree C target to be achieved, emissions of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) should “peak by 2020”, which means they should start falling from the following year. EGR 2018 says global peaking of emissions by 2020 is unlikely because “the scale and pace of current mitigation action remains insufficient”. Forty-nine countries have, on their individual part, achieved emissions peaking, but they represent 36 per cent share of global emissions, which “is not large enough to enable the world’s emissions to peak in the near term”, the EGR 2018 warns.

The report calls upon countries to do more and underscores the role of ‘non-state actors’ (such as companies and NGOs) and sub-nationals (state governments and city administrations) in achieving the global warming targets. It also calls for taxing of carbon to dissuade CO2 emitting activities.

Published on November 28, 2018

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