Why countries must go beyond their current climate commitments


As global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions break records, the latest Emissions Gap Report of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) concludes that current commitments under the Paris Agreement put the world on track for a temperature increase of between 2.5 and 2.9 °C above pre-industrial levels this century, signaling the urgent need for greater climate action.

Published ahead of the 2023 climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emissions Gap Report 2023: Record broken: Temperatures hit new highs, but world fails to reduce emissions (again)concludes that global low-carbon transformations are needed to achieve reductions in projected 2030 greenhouse gas emissions of 28 percent for a 2°C pathway and 42 percent for a 1.5°C pathway.

“We know that it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality. It requires rooting out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. And it demands a fair and equitable transition to renewable energy,” said Antònio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The UNEP press release and details of the report are reproduced below.

Maintaining the possibility of meeting the Paris Agreement temperature goals depends on significantly strengthening mitigation this decade to reduce the emissions gap. This will facilitate more ambitious targets for 2035 in the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and increase the chances of meeting net zero emissions pledges, which now cover around 80 percent of global emissions.

“There is no person or economy left on the planet unaffected by climate change, so we must stop setting unwanted records for greenhouse gas emissions, high global temperatures and extreme weather conditions,” he said. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Instead, we must pull the needle off the same old pace of insufficient ambition and insufficient action, and start setting other records: in emissions reductions, in green and just transitions, and in climate finance.”

broken records

Until the beginning of October this year, 86 days were recorded with temperatures higher than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. September was the hottest month ever recorded, with global average temperatures 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels.

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The report concludes that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 1.2 percent between 2021 and 2022 to reach a new record of 57.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e). GHG emissions across the G20 increased by 1.2 percent in 2022. Emissions trends reflect global patterns of inequality. Due to these worrying trends and insufficient mitigation efforts, the world is on track to increase temperatures far beyond agreed climate goals this century.

If mitigation efforts under current policies continue at current levels, global warming will only be limited to 3°C above pre-industrial levels this century. Full implementation of unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) efforts would put the world on track to limit temperature rise to 2.9°C. Full implementation of the conditional NDCs would result in temperatures not exceeding 2.5°C above pre-industrial levels. All of these have a 66 percent chance.

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These temperature projections are slightly higher than those in the 2022 Emissions Gap Report, as the 2023 report includes more models in estimating global warming.

The current unconditional NDCs imply that an additional 14 GtCO2e emissions cuts are needed in 2030 from the planned 2°C levels. Cuts of 22 GtCO2e are needed for 1.5°C. Implementing conditional NDCs reduces both estimates by 3 GtCO2e.

In percentage terms, the world needs to reduce emissions in 2030 by 28 percent to be on track for the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target, with a 66 percent chance and 42 percent for the 1.5 target. °C.

If all conditional NDCs and long-term net zero commitments were met, it would be possible to limit the temperature rise to 2°C. However, net-zero emissions pledges are not currently considered credible: none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions at a rate consistent with their net-zero emissions targets. Even in the most optimistic scenario, the probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C is only 14 percent.

Some progress, but not enough

Policy progress since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 has narrowed the implementation gap, defined as the difference between projected emissions under current policies and full implementation of NDCs. GHG emissions in 2030, based on current policies, were projected to increase by 16 percent at the time of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Today, the projected increase is 3 percent.

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As of September 25, nine countries had submitted new or updated NDCs since COP27 in 2022, bringing the total number of updated NDCs to 149. If all new and updated unconditional NDCs are fully implemented, they would likely reduce carbon emissions. GHG at approximately 5.0 GtCO2e. about 9 percent of 2022 emissions, annually by 2030, compared to initial NDCs.

However, unless emissions levels are further reduced by 2030, it will be impossible to establish least-cost pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C without overshooting or undershooting this century. Significantly increasing implementation in this decade is the only way to avoid a significant overshoot of 1.5°C.

Low carbon development transformations

The report calls on all nations to achieve economy-wide low-carbon development transformations, focusing on the energy transition. Coal, oil and gas extracted over the life of mines and fields in production and planned would emit more than 3.5 times the carbon budget available to limit warming to 1.5°C, and almost the entire budget available for 2°C.

Countries with greater capacity and responsibility for emissions – particularly high-income, high-emitting countries among the G20 – will need to take more ambitious and rapid action and provide financial and technical support to developing nations. With high-income countries already accounting for more than two-thirds of global GHG emissions, meeting development needs with low-emissions growth is a priority in those nations, such as addressing energy demand patterns and prioritizing supply chains. of clean energy supply.

The transition to low-carbon development poses economic and institutional challenges for low- and middle-income countries, but also offers important opportunities. Transitions in those countries can help provide universal energy access, lift millions of people out of poverty, and expand strategic industries. The associated energy growth can be met efficiently and equitably with low-carbon energy as renewables become cheaper, ensuring green jobs and cleaner air.

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To achieve this, international financial assistance will need to be significantly increased, with new public and private sources of capital restructured through financing mechanisms – including debt financing, long-term concessional financing, guarantees and catalytic financing – that reduce costs. of capital.

COP28 and the global balance

The first Global Stocktake (GST), which will conclude at COP28, will inform the next round of NDCs that countries must submit in 2025, with targets for 2035. Global ambition in the next round of NDCs must bring GHG emissions to 2035 at levels consistent with 2°C and 1.5°C, while offsetting excess emissions until levels consistent with these pathways are reached.

The preparation of the next round of NDCs offers the opportunity for low- and middle-income countries to develop national roadmaps with ambitious climate and development policies, and targets for which financial and technological needs are specified. COP28 should ensure that international support is provided for the development of such roadmaps.

Carbon dioxide removal

The report concludes that delaying reductions in GHG emissions will increase future dependence on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide removal is already being implemented, mainly through afforestation, reforestation and forest management. Current direct removals using land-based methods are estimated at 2 GtCO2e per year. However, the lowest-cost pathways involve significant increases in both conventional and novel carbon dioxide removal, such as direct airborne carbon capture and storage.

Achieving higher levels of carbon dioxide removal remains uncertain and associated with risks: around competition for land, protection of tenure and rights, and other factors. The scale-up of new carbon dioxide removal methods is associated with different types of risks, including that the technical, economic and political requirements for their large-scale implementation may not materialize in time.

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