Governments and non-state actors are falling short in ensuring the Paris Agreement goals are met, according to a recent UN assessment
Governments and non-state actors are falling short in ensuring the Paris Agreement goals are met, according to a recent UN assessment.
The latest UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Emissions Gap report, published October 31, 2017, has found that national pledges will only reduce a third of emissions required to meet 2030 climate targets, with private sector and sub-national action needing to urgently increase their input to close the gap.
The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to less than 2oC, which would reduce the likelihood of severe climate impacts on global economies, livelihoods and human health.
Current nationally determined contributions cover only a third of what is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and could lead to a temperature increase of at least 3oC by 2100.
CO2 emissions have stayed level since 2014, driven partly by renewable energy.
Most notably, more renewable energy in China and India, which has hopes raised for an emissions peak by 2020 and therefore a successful climate trajectory.
Other greenhouse gases such as methane, however, continue to rise and global economic growth could spur an upward trajectory of CO2 emissions.
Current Paris pledges leave 2030 emissions likely to reach between 11 and 13.5 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent above the level required to meet the 2oC target.
One gigatonne is roughly equivalent to one year’s worth of transport emissions from every country in the European Union.
If the United States does leave the Paris Agreement in 2020, as it has stated it could, these figures will worsen.
Investing in new technologies at a cost of under US$100/tonne of CO2 could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year in key sectors by 2030, the report says, which would close the current gap easily.
Governments will need to considerably strengthen their pledges when they revise them in 2020.
The Emissions Gap Report also sets out practical ways to cut emissions through immediate mitigation action, based on existing efforts in the building, agriculture, energy and forestry industries, and transport sectors.
Focusing only on certain actions– which have modest or net-negative costs – could cut up to 22 GtCO2e in 2030.
Strong action through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on hydrofluorocarbons, chemicals primarily used in air conditioning, refrigeration and foam insulation, and short-lived climate pollutants, like black carbon and methane, could also make a valuable contribution.
Much of the potential across the sectors, according to the report, lies in solar and wind energy investment, appliance efficiency, efficient transport, and afforestation replacing deforestation.
The world’s 100 largest emitting, publicly traded companies account for around a quarter of global greenhouse emissions, demonstrating that actions by non-state and subnational bodies, such as cities and the private sector, could bring about a huge reduction in the 2030 emissions gap.
Stopping the construction of new coal-fired power plants and phasing out existing ones, for example, would help, with an estimated 6,6683 plants in operation globally emitting an accumulated 190 Gt of CO2 in their lifetimes, and another 843 plants either under construction or in pre-construction that would emit an additional 150 Gt.
In addition, a new report released by the 1 Gigaton Coalition, which is supported by UN Environment and the Norwegian government, suggests that renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in developing countries could cut 1.4 GtCO2e by 2020.
This is possible provided the international community fulfils its promise of mobilising US$100 billion per year to support these projects.
Another report, Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, by the UN Environment Executive Director illustrates the benefits of a low-carbon society on global pollution.
Tackling pollution through political leadership on sustainable consumption and production could, for example, cut the millions of air pollution-related deaths each year.
Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future.”
“This is unacceptable. If we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future.”
Read More: Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, urges nations in 2015 to seize the moment and support a ‘no regrets’ agreement in Paris to achieve international climate action