World on track for 2.5 to 2.9 degree warming as countries fail to curb emissions
Maintaining the possibility of achieving the Paris Agreement goals hinges on strengthening mitigation this decade to narrow the emissions gap
New Delhi: The world is headed for 2.5 to 2.9 degree C warming over the pre-industrial period. At a time when several months have made temperature records, a new United Nations report released on Monday painted a bleak picture of climate action globally.
This year, until the beginning of October, 86 days recorded average temperatures over 1.5 degree C above pre-industrial levels. September was the hottest recorded month, with global average temperatures 1.8 degree C above pre-industrial levels and yet global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022 to reach a new record of 57.4 Gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (GtCO2e), United Nations Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2023 titled ‘Broken Record’ said.
GHG emissions across the G20 also increased by 1.2% in 2022 when emissions should in fact fall rapidly if Paris Agreement goals were to be met. Predicted 2030 emissions must be cut by at least 28-42% compared to current policy scenarios to get on track for the 2 degree C and 1.5 degree C goals of the Paris Agreement respectively. Fully implementing and continuing efforts implied by unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would put the world on track for limiting temperature rise to 2.9°C, the report said.
Maintaining the possibility of achieving the Paris Agreement goals hinges on strengthening mitigation this decade to narrow the emissions gap, the report underlined while highlighting that the world is witnessing a disturbing acceleration in the number, speed and scale of broken climate records.
“Due to the failure to stringently reduce emissions in high-income and high-emitting countries (which bear the greatest responsibility for past emissions) and to limit emissions growth in low- and middle-income countries (which account for the majority of current emissions), unprecedented action is now needed by all countries,” the report said.
For high-income countries this would mean further accelerating domestic emissions reductions, committing to reaching net zero as soon as possible and providing financial and technical support to low and middle-income countries. For low- and middle-income countries it means developing while also moving away from fossil fuels.
Two kinds of NDCs are submitted by the country which lay down their plans to mitigate emissions. Conditional NDCs are those that countries will implement depending on the finance and technology provided or shared by developed nations and unconditional NDCs are those that countries will implement irrespective of support. Current unconditional NDCs imply a 14 GtCO2e emissions gap for a 2 degree C goal and a 22 GtCO2e gap for the 1.5 degree C goal. The additional implementation of the conditional NDCs reduces these estimates by 3 GtCO2e.
The emissions gap is defined as the difference between the estimated global GHG emissions resulting from full implementation of the latest NDCs and those aligned with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.
The UN is clear that action in this decade will determine the ambition required in these NDCs, and the feasibility of achieving the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.
Further delay of stringent global GHG emissions reductions will increase future reliance on carbon dioxide removal technologies, the report warned.
“The delay in stringent mitigation action will likely increase future dependence on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere, but availability of large-scale CDR options in the future cannot be taken for granted,” it said.
“Today’s Emissions Gap report shows that if nothing changes, in 2030, emissions will be 22 Gigatonnes higher than the 1.5 degree-limit will allow. That’s roughly the total present annual emissions of the USA, China, and the EU combined. It shows greenhouse emissions reaching all-time highs – a 1.2% increase on last year –when those levels should be shooting down,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a statement.
“And those emissions are shattering temperature records. June, July, August, September and October were all the hottest on record. Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end three-degree temperature rise. In short, the report shows that the emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon. A canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives, and broken records,” he added.
Guterres said this is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity.