International action has been insufficient to curb GHG, drastic action needed, the UN says

Energize Weekly, December 4, 2019

The gap between international efforts to curb greenhouse gases (GHG) and the growing emissions has grown so large that dramatic reductions over the next decade are needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to a United Nations (UN) report.

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, countries set their own emission GHG reductions (nationally determined contributions or NDCs) with the aim of limiting the increase in global temperatures this century to at least 2 degrees Celsius, with a goal of a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.

Performance, however, has been “bleak,” the UN analysis said, as emissions continue to rise. “There is no sign of GHG emissions peaking in the next few years; every year of postponed peaking means that deeper and faster cuts will be required,” the UN said.

The world is on a pace to see a 3.2 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures by the end of the century, the report said. “Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global GHG emissions,” the report said.

Emissions have risen 1.5 percent a year for the last decade reaching a record 55.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) in 2018, with fossil fuel emissions from energy use and industry accounting for 68 percent of the total.

To reach the 2 degrees Celsius goal, emissions need to be 15 GtCO2e lower than the current NDCs in 2030 and 32 GtCO2e lower to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A 2.7 percent annual cut in emissions starting in 2020 would be required to achieve the 2 degrees Celsius target. To keep average global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius will take annual emission reductions of 7.6 percent a year. “Evidently, greater cuts will be required the longer that action is delayed,” the UN warned.

If “serious climate action” had begun 2010, it would have only required a 0.7 percent annual drop in emissions to meet the 2 degrees Celsius goal and 3.3 percent a year for the 1.5 degrees Celsius standard, the UN said.

“Further delaying the reductions needed to meet the goals would imply future emission reductions and removal of CO2 from the atmosphere at such a magnitude that it would result in a serious deviation from current available pathways,” the report cautioned. “This, together with necessary adaptation actions, risks seriously damaging the global economy and undermining food security and biodiversity.”

The major GHG emitting nations by volume are China, the U.S., the 28 countries in the European Union (EU) and India. On a per capita basis, they are the U.S., Russia, Japan and China.

The members of the G20, the world’s most advanced economies, generate about 78 percent of the world GHG emissions, and they, the UN said, “will largely determine global emissions trends and to the extent the 2030 emission gap will be closed.”

Overall, the G20 is projected to meet its Paris Accord targets. Six members – China, the EU, India, Mexico, Russia and Turkey – are slated to meet their NDC targets with current policies.

Increased actions will be needed by seven G20 countries to meet their NDCs: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the U.S., the UN said.

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