Countries must immediately peak their emissions and ratchet up GHG abatement to an 8% yearly clip over the next decade to keep the average global temperature rise within the more ambitious Paris Agreement limit, a UN report said Tuesday.
Global emissions, including those from land-use, climbed to a record 55.3 billion tonnes in 2018, according to the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) annual Emissions Gap Report. Of that total, fossil fuel-based output from energy use and industry grew 2% last year to hit 37.5 bln tonnes.
The continued acceleration of global emissions will thereby require cuts of 2.7% annually over the 2020-2030 period to attain the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels, or 7.6% for the climate pact’s more ambitious 1.5C target.
“This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action,” Inger Anderson, UNEP executive director, said in a press release. “They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”
Like last year’s report, the UN found that nations must roughly triple their NDC commitments under the Paris Agreement to meet the 2C goal, and quintuple them to meet 1.5C. Doing so would result in 2030 annual emissions being 15 bln tonnes lower for the 2C target and 32 bln tonnes lower for 1.5C.
At present, countries’ unconditional NDC commitments under the 2015 treaty would culminate in global warming of 3.2C. The 2018 emissions total also marks the second straight year where worldwide GHGs have risen, following a stagnation period over 2014-2016.
The UNEP report noted that while nations in the middle- to high-income G20 grouping account for 78% of total emissions, seven of them do not have either policies in place to achieve their current NDCs or strategies for transformative climate commitments on a wider scale.
The agency said a massive shift to renewable energy could knock down power sector emissions by 8.1 bln tonnes in 2050, while the electrification of heat and building energy efficiency measures could contribute a further 2.1 bln tonnes of abatement.
Electrification could similar have a similarly crucial impact on the transportation sector, possibly slashing CO2 output for those activities by 6.1 bln tonnes, or 72% by mid-century.
However, such a comprehensive transition would necessitate supply-side investments of $1.6-$3.8 trillion per year over the next three decades, the report stated.
The publication comes less than a week ahead of COP25 in Madrid, where countries will attempt to hammer out the rulebook for international emissions trade under the Paris Agreement’s market-based Article 6, with an agreement having been punted from last year’s UN climate summit in Poland.
Still, efforts to raise NDC ambition outside of Article 6 mechanisms are not expected among the key issues for this year’s UN conference.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ New York climate summit in September saw nearly 60 countries commit to higher GHG cuts ahead of COP26 in Glasgow next November, though observers called out major emitters such as the US, China, and India for failing to signal an increase in ambition.
But despite the lack of attention to higher NDC ambition many expect at the Madrid climate summit, Spain’s Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said the report’s findings only add to the increased urgency to cut global emissions.
“This is why COP25 has to be a decisive breakthrough for countries to elevate their contributions against climate change in 2020, enabling a global climate action movement that is more inclusive and channels proper action to beat this challenge,” Ribera said in a statement.
Some 68 countries, representing 8% of global GHGs, have stated their intention to enhance the ambition or action in their NDCs by 2020, while a further 41 nations, accounting for 10% of emissions, have said they intend to update their NDCs, according to think-tank WRI’s Climate Watch platform.
By Matt Lithgow – email@example.com