Countries must cut global emissions by 7.6% every year for the next decade to keep global warming below 1.5°C, the UN says. The annual Emissions Gap Report shows that, on current unconditional pledges, the world is heading for a 3.2°C temperature rise – doubling the maximum increase set under the Paris Agreement.
The report assesses the gap between anticipated emissions in 2030 and levels consistent with the Paris targets. Data shows that greenhouse gas emissions have risen 1.5% per year over the last decade and 2018 emissions hit a new high of 55.3 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. This was also due to land-use changes such as deforestation.
“For 10 years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and, for 10 years, the world has only increased its emissions,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”
Yet, though G20 nations together account for 78% of all emissions, only five among them have committed to a timeline for net-zero emissions. The report says that “In the short-term, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions quicker than developing countries, for reasons of fairness and equity” and eventually “all nations must substantially increase ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as the Paris commitments are known.”
Few days before the 25th UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, the UN reminded that rising temperatures will bring destructive climate impacts and that 2020 is a critical year for climate action. Leaders at COP26, set to take place in Glasgow, will have to determine their future efforts to avert a crisis.
Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe commented: “We need a massive turnaround in climate policies. 2020 needs to be a major historical turning point, when governments adopt much stronger commitments for 2030 and initiate immediate, drastic cuts in emissions. The hope lies in millions of people taking to the streets, who can force politicians to act according to the recommendations from scientists.”
The report also points out that “technologies and policy knowledge exist to cut emissions, but transformations must begin now.” According to CAN, the EU could take this opportunity to stop investments in fossil-fuel infrastructure, develop a strategy for zero-emission industrial processes and step up efforts to phase out coal-fired plants as well as to retrofit existing buildings.