Powered by

Home Environment Stories

More efforts than currently needed to limit warming to 2.5-2.9°C

The latest Emissions Gap report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has issued a serious caution.

By Ground report
New Update
More efforts than currently needed to limit warming to 2.5-2.9°C

The latest Emissions Gap report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has issued a serious caution. It emphasizes the necessity for nations worldwide to enhance their climate commitments beyond the existing pledges under the Paris Agreement. If we don't do this, we could face a scenario where global temperatures increase by 2.5-2.9 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.

The “Emissions Gap Report 2023: Broken Record”, unveiled prior to the 2023 Climate Summit in Dubai, indicates that despite reaching unprecedented global temperatures, the world has yet to make significant reductions in emissions. The report underscores the urgency to exceed current commitments and strive for improvement. If we merely adhere to the existing pledges under the Paris Agreement, we risk a perilous temperature increase.

To avert this, the report advocates for a significant enhancement of mitigation efforts within this decade. The success of these efforts hinges on reducing the emissions gap, thereby setting more ambitious goals for 2035 in the upcoming round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Such actions also boost the likelihood of fulfilling net-zero pledges, which presently encompass approximately 80% of global emissions.

"Highlighting the universal impact of climate change, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said, "Climate change touches no person or economy on the planet, so we must respond to issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and extreme weather. We must stop setting records in context."

Broken records 

"Until the beginning of October this year, records showed 86 days with temperatures over 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. September set the record as the hottest month ever, with global average temperatures registering 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels."

The report reveals some alarming data. For instance, temperatures exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for a record 86 days by October of this year. September was the warmest month ever documented, with the global average temperature reaching 1.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, global greenhouse gas emissions saw an increase of 1.2% from 2021 to 2022, setting a new record at 57.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e).

The report indicates that sticking to their current commitments could restrict global warming to a rise of just 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century for nations. Such a scenario's grave implications underscore the pressing need for escalating efforts to tackle climate change.

"If we persist with today's mitigation efforts, we could restrict global warming to 3°C in this century. Implementing unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) could reduce temperature rise to 2.9°C, while Conditional NDCs could limit it to 2.5°C; each scenario with a 66% probability."

The current unconditional NDCs imply that we need to make additional emissions cuts of 14 GtCO2e over predicted levels in 2030 for 2°C. We need to make cuts of 22 GtCO2e for 1.5°C. Implementing conditional NDCs reduces both of these estimates by 3 GtCO2e.

In percentage terms, the world needs to cut 2030 emissions by 28 per cent to get on track to achieve the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement, with a 66 per cent chance, and 42 per cent for the 1.5°C goal.  

Some progress, but not enough 

There has been some progress since 2015 when the Paris Agreement was signed, but it is not sufficient. Policy advancements have reduced the implementation gap, which is the difference between projected emissions under current policies and full implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). When the Paris Agreement was adopted, the projections indicated a 16% increase in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 based on existing policies. Now, projections indicate an increase of just 3%.

"Nine countries submitted new or updated NDCs since COP27 in 2022, as of September 25, increasing the total number of updated NDCs to 149. Implementing all new and updated unconditional NDCs fully would likely cut GHG emissions by about 5.0 GtCO2e, which constitutes roughly 9% of 2022 emissions, annually by 2030, compared with the initial NDCs."

However, unless emission levels in 2030 are further reduced, it will become impossible to establish least-cost pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with no or low overshoot during this century. Therefore, significantly ramping up implementation in this decade is the only way to avoid a significant overshoot of 1.5°C.

The report urges nations to embark on global, economy-wide transformations towards low-carbon development, with a special emphasis on energy transition. It particularly calls on high-income and high-emission countries to undertake more ambitious and swift actions, and to extend financial and technical support to developing nations.

Looking forward, the report anticipates COP28 and the inaugural Global Stocktake (GST), which will culminate at COP28. The GST will guide the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), underscoring the necessity for a global ambition to align Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions with the 2°C and 1.5°C pathways by 2035.

Carbon dioxide removal 

The report reveals an increase in future reliance on atmospheric carbon dioxide removal due to delayed GHG emissions reductions. Mainly, the deployment of carbon dioxide removal is happening through afforestation, reforestation, and forest management. The estimation of current direct removals through land-based methods lands at 2 GtCO2e per year. Still, we find assumptions of considerable increases in both conventional and novel carbon dioxide removal, such as direct air carbon capture and storage, in least-cost pathways.

Achieving higher levels of carbon dioxide removal remains uncertain and associated with risks: around land competition, protection of tenure and rights and other factors. Different types of risks, including the technical, economic and political requirements for large-scale deployment, may not materialize in time, are associated with the upscaling of novel carbon dioxide removal methods.

Keep reading

Follow Ground Report for Climate Change and Under-Reported issues in India. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagramWhatsapp and YouTube. Write us on [email protected].