The world is now in a race against the clock, warns a new United Nations climate report.
The U.N. Environment Programme report released yesterday found that Group of 20 nations will fall short of the Paris Agreement’s goals unless they take drastic measures to get back on track.
After a three-year period of stabilization, the report found that global carbon emissions are on the rise, leading to an “emissions gap”—the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030 compared with levels consistent with limiting global warming to 2°C and 1.5°C.
In short, it’s the difference between what nations need to do and what they’re actually doing to prevent dangerous levels of climate change.
There is still a small window to keep global temperature increases below 2°C; the one for achieving the 1.5°C goal is even smaller. However, if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, temperatures will likely rise more than 2°C, according to the report.
The findings come shortly after a major U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned of catastrophic climate consequences within decades.
“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said U.N. Environment Programme Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya.
“The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen—governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach,” she said.
Yesterday’s report urged G-20 nations to raise their original Paris emissions reduction targets by three times to meet the 2°C threshold and by five times to meet the 1.5°C mark.
The authors of the report stated in a press release that the kind of drastic, large-scale action the planet desperately needs has yet to be seen, even though global emissions have reached record levels at 53.5 billion metric tons in 2017, with no signs of peaking.
Cities, states, the private sector and other nonfederal entities may be best placed to take bold actions on climate change. According to the report, the globe may need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 19 billion metric tons by 2030 to close the 2°C gap.
“All countries need to work to bring down their emissions, but the biggest impacts will come from the top four emitters—China, the United States, the European Union, and India—which together account for more than 56% of all the greenhouse gases that were emitted over the last decade,” the report states.
China is still the single biggest emissions contributor—accounting for 27%—although there are signs that the country could be nearing its peak.
On the other hand, the United States and European Union are responsible for more than one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“If we act quickly, it’s still possible for us to meet the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C,” the report states.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D–NJ), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been undermining U.S. efforts to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions.
“If we do not bring greenhouse gas emissions under control, we will subject ourselves to even worse climate change consequences than we are experiencing now,” Pallone said.
He added, “The U.S. could and should be leading a global effort to transition the world’s economy in a cleaner, more sustainable direction.”
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2018. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.