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A Step Change Is Needed In Emissions Reduction

What's happening? Global emissions must fall by 7.6% annually until 2030 if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement target of restricting warming to 1.5C – seen as necessary to avoid dangerous consequences of climate change – according to the latest annual emissions gap report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Under current Paris Agreement climate pledges, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the world is heading for a 3.2C temperature rise. Last year, global carbon dioxide emissions rose to a record 55 gigatonnes. 

Why does this matter? The UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap Report analyses the gap between the cumulative emissions reduction that would be realised under current NDCs, and the emissions reduction necessary to keep global temperature rises to a maximum of 2C, 1.8C and 1.5C.

This year’s report finds current NDCs, if implemented, would result in 3.2C warming by 2100, and that collective ambition needs to increase fivefold over current levels to limit warming to 1.5C – with emissions needing to drop to 23 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2030.

The emissions gap has increased over recent years as global emissions continue to rise and climate science is updated. UNEP highlights delaying real action on emissions will mean harder and more costly emission cuts in future years.

The World Meteorological Organization recently reported the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases has hit record highs, with above average increases seen last year and no signs of slowdown. To hit 1.5C, oil demand needs to peak within a few years and negative emissions technologies will likely be required to mitigate potential temperature overshoot.

The Paris Agreement contains a ratcheting mechanism for countries to strengthen their NDCs every five years, and this is due to occur for the first time next year at COP26 in Glasgow. Some countries have already made moves to increase their ambitions, with 65 countries committing to net-zero emissions by 2050; but countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada and the US are not on track to even meet their current NDCs.

A lot of work is needed to close the gap, and Glasgow needs to deliver.

Further reading:

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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