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Warning: Climate pledges are not enough to avoid 3°C temperature rise

The latest Emissions Gap Report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) delivers a stark warning: current pledges under the Paris Agreement are insufficient, setting the world on a course for a concerning 2.5-2.9°C temperature rise this century. 

This alarming forecast, detailed in the report “Emissions Gap Report 2023: Broken Record – Temperatures hit new highs, yet world fails to cut emissions (again),” underscores the critical need for increasing climate action.

Low-carbon transformations

Released in anticipation of the 2023 climate summit in Dubai, the report emphasizes the necessity of global low-carbon transformations. These changes are imperative to achieve the substantial cuts in predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions — 28 percent for a 2°C pathway and 42 percent for a 1.5°C pathway.

“We know it is still possible to make the 1.5-degree limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. And it demands a just, equitable renewables transition,” said UN Secretary-General Antònio Guterres.

Ambitious targets are needed

The report stresses that significant mitigation within this decade is essential to narrow the emissions gap. This approach would support more ambitious 2035 targets in the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and bolster the likelihood of achieving net-zero pledges, which currently encompass about 80 percent of global emissions.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, highlighted the universal impact of climate change. “We need to stop setting unwanted records on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature highs and extreme weather,” he said, advocating a shift in focus towards decisive actions in emissions reduction and climate finance.

Temperature rise projections

  • The year up to early October saw 86 days with temperatures exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • September registered as the hottest month on record, averaging 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Global GHG emissions increased by 1.2 percent from 2021 to 2022, reaching a new high of 57.4 GtCO2e.
  • The G20 nations also saw a 1.2 percent increase in emissions in 2022.

Projections indicate that without intensified mitigation efforts, the world faces a temperature rise of 3°C this century under current policies. Full implementation of unconditional NDCs could limit this increase to 2.9°C, and conditional NDCs could cap it at 2.5°C, with a 66 percent probability.

These figures represent a slight increase from the 2022 Emissions Gap Report, attributable to the inclusion of more models in the estimation process.

Emissions gap efforts are inadequate

To align with the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement, global emissions in 2030 need to be cut by 28 percent, and by 42 percent for the 1.5°C goal. 

Meeting conditional NDCs and net-zero pledges could make the 2°C limit feasible, but current efforts are not consistent with these targets. The likelihood of staying within 1.5°C is just 14 percent in the most optimistic scenario.

Considerable work is needed

Though policy progress since the Paris Agreement has reduced the implementation gap, significant work remains. The report calls for comprehensive low-carbon development transformations, especially in high-income and high-emitting countries, and stresses the importance of supporting developing nations in meeting their development needs with low-emission growth.

The upcoming COP28 and the Global Stocktake provide an opportunity for nations to draft ambitious development and climate policies, with clearly defined finance and technology needs. The report also discusses the role of carbon dioxide removal, emphasizing the risks and uncertainties associated with its large-scale deployment.

The Emissions Gap Report 2023 serves as a crucial reminder of the urgent need for transformative climate action to avert the severe consequences of unmitigated climate change.

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