UN report finds insufficient progress on climate action

New Delhi: As intensifying climate impacts around the world drive home the message that greenhouse gas emissions must fall quickly, a new United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report on climate action finds that the international community is still not met the Paris targets, with no credible path to 1.5 degrees Celsius in place.

However, the report Emissions Gap 2022: The Closing Window – climate crisis requires rapid transformation of societies finds that urgent sectoral and systemic transformations – in the power, industry, transport and buildings sectors, as well as food and financial systems – would help to avoid climate disaster.

“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature tells us all year through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we need to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and stop doing it fast,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“We had the chance to make incremental changes, but that time has run out. Only a fundamental transformation of our economies and societies can save us from an accelerating climate catastrophe.”

The UN Climate Action Report found that despite a decision by all countries at the 2021 Climate Summit in Glasgow, UK (COP26) to strengthen Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and some updates from nations, progress is woefully inadequate.

The NDCs presented this year remove just 0.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, less than one percent, from projected global emissions in 2030.

This lack of progress has the world moving towards a temperature increase well above the Paris Agreement target of well below 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees.

Unconditional MPCs are estimated to give a 66 percent chance of limiting global warming to about 2.6 degrees over the century.

For conditional NPCs, those dependent on external support, this figure is reduced to 2.4 degrees.

Current policies alone would lead to a rise of 2.8 degrees, highlighting the temperature implications of the gap between promises and action.

At best, full implementation of unconditional MRLs and additional net-zero emissions commitments only point to an increase of 1.8 degrees Celsius, so there is hope.

However, this scenario is currently not credible based on the discrepancy between current emissions, short-term NDC targets and long-term net-zero targets.

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world must reduce greenhouse gases by unprecedented levels over the next eight years.

Unconditional and conditional MRLs are estimated to reduce global emissions in 2030 by five and 10 percent, respectively, compared to emissions based on current policies.

To arrive at the least-cost path to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, emissions must fall by 45 percent from current policies by 2030.

A 30 percent reduction is needed for the 2 degrees Celsius target.

Such massive cuts mean we need large-scale, rapid and systemic transformation. The report explores how to bring about some of this transformation in key sectors and systems.

“It’s a lofty and some would say impossible goal to reform the global economy and almost halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but we have to try,” Andersen said.

“Every part of the degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to species and ecosystems, and to each of us.”

“Even if we don’t meet our 2030 targets, we must aim to get as close as possible to 1.5 degrees C. This means laying the foundations for a net-zero future – one that will allow us to reduce temperature extremes and delivers many other social and environmental benefits, such as clean air, green jobs and universal access to energy.”

The report finds that the transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in power, industry, transport and buildings is underway, but needs to move much faster.

Electricity supply is most advanced as the cost of renewable electricity has dropped dramatically. However, the pace of change needs to increase alongside measures to ensure a just transition and universal access to energy.

Buildings must rapidly adopt the best available technologies. For industry and transport, zero-emission technology needs to be further developed and deployed.

To advance the transformation, all sectors must avoid locking in new fossil fuel-intensive infrastructure, advance zero-carbon technology and implement it, and pursue behavioral change.

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