Countries' current climate action pledges are insufficient and lead to global warming this century that would be between 2.5 and 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels. But if current policies are routinely followed, the rise would be greater: it would reach 3ºC this century.
Hence the “urgent” need to achieve more ambitious action. This is indicated by the Emissions Gap Report, prepared by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which analyzes the current national plans or contributions that countries have implemented and the actions necessary to achieve a safe climate. Everything is up to what the countries do. They must present their climate action plans to the UN every five years and have to show their cards before 2025.
“Current trends are leading our planet to a dead end with a temperature increase of 3°C,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "The emissions gap is more like an emissions cannon," he added. World leaders will gather starting November 30 in Dubai for the annual UN climate summit (COP28) to keep alive the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C warming target.
The report concludes that major global transformations are needed to favor a low-carbon economy in order to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, with respect to current policies, gas emissions must decrease by 42% by 2030, if we want to follow a path that stops warming by 1.5ºC, and by 28% to not exceed 2 °C, thresholds that They should not be surpassed this century.
With warming exceeding 2°C, scientists predict that the planet would see environmental impacts worsen, such as the rampant melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets, rises in sea level and extreme climate events (heat waves, droughts ...), among many other effects..
The delay in action now makes making up for lost time a much more difficult task.
To reach a level of emissions consistent with a path below 2ºC in 2030, annual gas cuts should be 5.3% from 2024, and reach 8.7% annually on average on a path not to exceed 1.5ºC. The task is, therefore, titanic.
It is enough to remember that the total drop in emissions was 4.7% due to the covid pandemic between 2019 and 2020.
"There is no person or economy left on the planet that is not affected by climate change, so we must stop setting unwanted records for greenhouse gas emissions, global maximum temperatures and extreme weather conditions," he says. Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. Andersen calls for “starting to set other records: in emissions reductions, in green and fair transitions and in climate financing.”
Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.2% in 2022 compared to 2021 and reached 57.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), with patterns that reflect very different trends. Therefore, given these worrying trends and insufficient mitigation efforts, the world is on track to see temperature increases this century above agreed climate goals.
Under current policies, global warming will only be limited to 3°C above pre-industrial levels this century.
However, this increase in temperatures can be contained if countries apply the climate action plans committed to the UN, in many cases they are conditional on external financial aid.
That's why there are two circumstances. If national climate action plans are met (without conditions), it would be feasible to put the world on track to limit temperature rise to 2.9°C.
But if comprehensive application is achieved (including external aid), the increase in temperatures would not exceed 2.5°C above pre-industrial levels (we always talk about a 66% probability).
The outlook on warming offered by UNEP is slightly higher than the projections made in 2022, which then indicated an increase of between 2.4 °C and 2.6 °C by 2100. This difference is due to the fact that the 2023 report ran simulations in more climate models.
If the commitments to achieve a long-term zero emissions balance (towards 2050 and beyond) were also met, then it would be possible to limit the temperature increase to 2°C.
However, this is an overly optimistic scenario, as the promises made by countries on this issue are not considered credible. And in fact, none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions at a pace consistent with those net-zero emissions goals.
But even in the most optimistic scenario, the probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C is only 14%. The world has only a small chance of keeping global warming below this threshold, key to preventing the effects of the most extreme and catastrophic weather events.
However, the world has moved forward since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. Warming projections based on emissions at that time "were much higher than they are now," said Danish researcher Anne Olhoff, first author. study. Greenhouse gas emissions based on current policies were expected to increase by 2030 by 16% at the time of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Today, however, the projections are for an increase of 3%.
As of September 25, only nine more countries have submitted new or updated climate action plans to the UN since the 2022 summit, bringing the total number to 149.
For this reason, the situation has not changed much, although some countries, such as the United States and those in Europe, have adopted measures that have improved the outlook.
For two years, countries have known that they have to propose more ambitious emissions reduction targets to limit warming to 1.5ºC, but "none of the big emitters have changed their promises," said Niklas Hohne, study co-author and scientist. from the New Climate Institute of Germany.
The report indicates that unless emissions levels are further reduced by 2030, it will be impossible to establish lowest-cost pathways to limit global warming to 1.5ºC this century. Significantly increasing measures in this decade is the only way to avoid significantly exceeding the 1.5ºC threshold.
The document includes a call to all nations to carry out transformations in their development, focused on achieving an economy with low carbon emissions and especially in the energy transition.
Coal, oil and gas extracted over the life of mines and planned producing fields would emit more than 3.5 times the carbon budget available to limit warming to 1.5ºC and almost the entire budget available for 2ºC.
That is why it is indicated that countries with greater capacity and responsibility in terms of emissions – particularly high-income and high-emitting countries among the G20 – should adopt more ambitious and faster measures and provide financial and technical support to developing nations.
With low- and middle-income countries already accounting for more than two-thirds of global emissions, the priority is to meet development needs in those low-emissions growth nations (as well as redirecting energy demand patterns and prioritizing clean energy supply chains).
The transition to low-carbon development poses economic and institutional challenges for low- and middle-income countries, but also offers important opportunities, the report notes. Transitions in those countries can help provide them with universal access to energy, lift millions of people out of poverty, and expand strategic industries.
These needs can be met efficiently and equitably with low-carbon energy as renewable energy becomes cheaper, ensuring green jobs and cleaner air.
To achieve this, “international financial assistance will need to be significantly increased, with new public and private sources of capital restructured through financing mechanisms that reduce capital costs.