A United Nations report has warned that global efforts to tackle greenhouse gas emissions are off track, with emissions reaching a record high of 53.5 billion tonnes in 2017, the first rise after three years of decreases.
The ninth annual UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report released on Tuesday, analysed the impact of climate policies implemented by individual countries, and whether they are enough to limit the global average temperature rise to a relatively safe threshold of below two degrees Celsius by 2030.
The assessment comes a few days before a UN climate conference starts in Poland. The talks will produce a “rule book” on how to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the rise in global temperatures to between 1.5 and two degrees Celsius.
According to the report, emissions by 2030 will need to be around 25 percent lower than 2017 levels to limit global warming to 2C, and 55 percent lower to limit the rise to 1.5C.
“Increased emissions and lagging action mean the gap figure for this year’s report is larger than ever,” the report stated.
.@UNEnvironment just published the #EmissionsGap Report, finding that Global CO2 emissions increased in 2017, after 3 years of stabilization. The message is clear! We urgently need a large-scale actions to bridge the #EmissionsGap https://t.co/bL14Z2MZpB #UN4ALL pic.twitter.com/UwkVYY5QCY
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) November 27, 2018
Current climate policies are set to lower emissions by up to six billion tonnes by 2030, meaning global warming of around 3C by 2100.
“If the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is very plausible that the goal of a well below 2C temperature rise increase is also out of reach,” the report said.
Nations must raise their #ClimateAction ambition by
🔴 3X to meet the 2°C warming target
🔴 5X to meet the 1.5°C warming target
We urgently need a large-scale push to bridge the #EmissionsGap: https://t.co/hpEut7Gn1B pic.twitter.com/u0vEYso0AA
— UN Environment Programme (@UNEP) November 27, 2018
A report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last month said that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5C would require rapid and unprecedented changes.
“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” UNEP deputy executive director Joyce Msuya said in a statement.
“The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we have seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We are feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach,” he added.
The UNEP report also said that non-national institutions such as city, state, and regional governments, are increasingly committing to climate action, as well as private and civil society organisations.
These were an important element in achieving global emissions goals, the report said.
Although estimates on the potential emissions reduction vary, some 19 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent could be reduced by their actions by 2030. This would be enough to close the 2C gap.