World Faces Catastrophic 2.7 ° C Temperature Rise on Current Climate Plans, UN Warns

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The world is wasting the opportunity to ‘build back better’ from the Covid-19 pandemic, and faces disastrous temperature increases of at least 2.7 ° C if countries fail to step up their climate commitments, according to a UN report.

Tuesday’s publication warns that countries’ current pledges would reduce carbon by only about 7.5% by 2030, far less than the 45% reduction scientists believe are needed to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 ° C, the goal of the Cop26 summit which opens in Glasgow this Sunday.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, described the results as a “thunderous alarm” for world leaders, while experts called for drastic measures against the fossil fuel companies.

Although more than 100 countries have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, that would not be enough to avert a climate catastrophe, according to the United Nations emissions report, which examines the mismatch between countries’ intentions. and the necessary actions on the climate. Many of the net zero commitments have proven vague and, unless accompanied by strict emission reductions, this decade would allow for global warming of potentially catastrophic magnitude.

Guterres said, “The heat is on, and as the contents of this report show, the leadership we need is off. In the distance. Countries are wasting a huge opportunity to invest Covid-19 tax and recovery resources in a sustainable, economical and ecological way. As world leaders prepare for Cop26, this report is yet another red flag. How much do we need? “

Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEp), which produced the report, said: “Climate change is no longer a future problem. It’s a problem now. To have a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C, we have eight years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost half: eight years to make plans, implement policies, implement them. implemented and ultimately realize the reductions. Time is running out. “

2050: what happens if we ignore the climate crisis - explanatory video
2050: what happens if we ignore the climate crisis – explanatory video

Emissions fell about 5.4% last year during Covid lockdowns, according to the report, but only about a fifth of economic recovery spending was for efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This failure to “build back better” despite promises from governments around the world casts doubt on the world’s will to make the economic shift necessary to tackle the climate crisis, the UN said.

Looking ahead to Cop26, countries were expected to submit national emission reduction plans – called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – for the next decade, a requirement of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

But the UNEP report found that only half of the countries had submitted new NDCs, major emitters including China and India had still not released their plans, and several other governments – including Russia. , Brazil, Australia and Mexico – had presented weak plans that were no improvement on their Paris 2015 promises.

Joanna Depledge, Cambridge Center for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, said: “The picture painted by the report is grim: less than half of NDCs are genuinely more ambitious than the first round submitted in 2015 or 2016.

“There is an ambition gap between country commitments and the reductions needed to limit rising temperatures… and even more troubling is an implementation gap – many large emitters are not even on track to meet. their existing commitments.

Longer-term mid-century net zero commitments have now been adopted by 49 countries and the EU, placing around half of global emissions, half of GDP and around one-third of the world’s population under commitments of net zero, according to the report, which took into account commitments made before the end of September.

But Andersen said governments’ net zero promises are often vague or ambiguous. If these could be “made robust and fully implemented,” the world could reduce the expected 2.7 ° C warming by Unep by 0.5 ° C, she said.

Joeri Rogelj, research director at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said: “If implemented, the current net zero targets would reduce temperature projections for the next century by about a half. degree – bringing the central estimates to close to 2 ° C – but still not. in line with keeping global warming well below 2C, not to mention 1.5C.

“On the other hand, the report also points out that in many cases countries’ short-term targets do not yet clearly put emissions on track to meet their net zero targets. This casts doubt on the achievement of these goals. “

Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, said: “It is time for the government to start telling the truth about how far we are from where we need to be in this decisive decade. This report makes it clear that there can be no shifting of the goals of action from this decade to the goals of the middle of this century. If we follow this path, we will fail to keep global warming at 1.5 ° C and betray future generations.

“The window for action is closing, and it is essential that in the budget and in the days to come, the Prime Minister and the government mobilize to make Cop26 the summit of climate action, and not the climate delay. “

The Emissions Gap Report also highlighted methane, a potent greenhouse gas that comes from animal husbandry, natural gas extraction and waste. The United States, the EU and more than 20 other countries have pledged to reduce the world’s methane by 30% this decade.

Unep said methane was the second largest contributor to temperature rise, after carbon, and that about 20% of annual methane emissions could be reduced at little or no cost, for example through a better management of natural gas drilling, stopping flaring and plugging old wells.

Myles Allen, professor of geosystems science at the University of Oxford, has championed the idea of ​​forcing fossil fuel companies and other major emitters to pay for the permanent storage of the carbon they emit, via a ” carbon recovery obligation ”, using carbon capture. and storage technology.

He said: “On current progress, we will close the 2030 emissions gap into the 2080s. There is no appetite to reduce global fossil fuel consumption at the required pace. The only option left is to step up the safe and permanent removal of carbon dioxide, such as storing it underground, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. “

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