NAIROBI, Oct 26 — Even if recent announcements made by world leaders on their climate pledges to bring down global emissions become more clear, it is clear that the global temperature is set to still go up by more than 2 degrees celsius this century, said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.
Antonio said this at a press conference here today in conjunction with the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2021: The Heat Is On.
The report stated that new and updated climate commitments fall far short of what is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, leaving the world on track for a global temperature rise of at least 2.7°C this century.
Antonio said while countries remained vague on their zero emission pledge, there had been massive failings to meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.
Antonio, who will be at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) next week in Glasgow said only 20 percent of investments globally were in support of green economy and that the Emissions Gap Report was a thundering wake up call to climate change and the consequences that will come with it.
He said all leaders of the G20 countries, which are responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, must understand that they need to do maximum in mitigating climate change. Many countries that have not presented their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – should do so before the meet in Glasgow or at Glasgow.
The Emissions Gap Report, now in its 12th year, provides a yearly review of the difference between where greenhouse emissions are predicted to be in 2030 and where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Highlighting the findings of the report in a press statement following the press conference, the UNEP said countries’ updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – and other commitments made for 2030 but not yet submitted in an updated NDC – only take an additional 7.5 per cent off predicted annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, compared to the previous round of commitments.
Reductions of 30 per cent are needed to stay on the least-cost pathway for 2°C and 55 per cent for 1.5°C.
It said net-zero pledges could make a big difference. If fully implemented, these pledges could bring the predicted global temperature rise to 2.2°C, providing hope that further action could still head off the most-catastrophic impacts of climate change.
However, net-zero pledges are still vague, incomplete in many cases, and inconsistent with most 2030 NDCs.
“Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
“To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, 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.”
As of 30 September 2021, 120 countries, representing just over half of global greenhouse gas emissions, had communicated new or updated NDCs. In addition, three G20 members have announced other new mitigation pledges for 2030.
To have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the world has eight years to take an additional 28 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) off annual emissions, over and above what is promised in the updated NDCs and other 2030 commitments. To put this number into perspective, carbon dioxide emissions alone are expected to reach 33 gigatonnes in 2021.
When all other greenhouse gases are taken into account, annual emissions are close to 60 GtCO2e. So, to have a chance of reaching the 1.5°C target, we need to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions. For the 2°C target, the additional need is lower: a drop in annual emissions of 13 GtCO2e by 2030.
Net-zero pledges – and their effective execution – could make a big difference, the authors find, but current plans are vague and not reflected in NDCs. A total of 49 countries plus the EU have pledged a net-zero target. This covers over half of global domestic greenhouse gas emissions, over half of GDP and a third of the global population.
If implemented fully, net-zero targets could shave an extra 0.5°C off global warming, bringing the predicted temperature rise down to 2.2°C.
However, many of the national climate plans delay action until after 2030, raising doubts over whether net-zero pledges can be delivered.
“The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species,” Andersen added. “Nations need to put in place the policies to meet their new commitments, and start implementing them within months.
“It is also essential to deliver financial and technological support to developing nations – so that they can both adapt to the impacts of climate change already here and set out on a low-emissions growth path.”
Every year, the Emissions Gap Report looks at the potential of specific sectors. This year, it focuses on methane and market mechanisms. Reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors can contribute to closing the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term.
Methane emissions are the second largest contributor to global warming. The gas has a global warming potential over 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon; it also has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – only twelve years, compared to up to hundreds for CO2 – so cuts to methane will limit temperature increase faster than cuts to carbon dioxide.
Available no- or low-cost technical measures alone could reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by around 20 per cent per year. Implementation of all measures, along with broader structural and behavioural measures, could reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by approximately 45 per cent.
Carbon markets, meanwhile, have the potential to reduce costs and thereby encourage more ambitious reduction pledges, but only if rules are clearly defined, are designed to ensure that transactions reflect actual reductions in emissions, and are supported by arrangements to track progress and provide transparency.
Revenues earned through these markets could fund mitigation and adaptation solutions domestically and in vulnerable nations where the burdens of climate change are greatest.