The UNEP has cautioned that the lack of progress leaves the world hurtling towards a temperature rise far above the Paris Agreement goal of well below 2C, and preferably 1.5C
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s new Emissions Gap Report 2022, the international community is still falling far short of the Paris goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5-degrees Celsius in place. The UNEP pointed out the results come at a time where the world has been experiencing intensifying climate impacts.
“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us, all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we have to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GHGs), and stop doing it fast. We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
On a positive note, the report said urgent sector and system-wide transformations – in the electricity supply, industry, transport and buildings sectors, and the food and financial systems – would help to avoid climate disaster.
The report drew attention to the fact that despite a decision by all countries at COP26 to strengthen Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and, some updates from nations, progress has been “woefully inadequate”. NDCs submitted this year take only 0.5GT of CO2 equivalent – less than 1% – off projected global emissions in 2030, it highlighted.
The UNEP cautioned that the lack of progress leaves the world hurtling towards a temperature rise far above the Paris Agreement goal of well below 2C, and preferably 1.5C. Unconditional NDCs are estimated to give a 66% chance of limiting global warming to about 2.6C over the century. For conditional NDCs, those that are dependent on external support, this figure is reduced to 2.4C. Current policies alone would lead to a 2.8C hike, highlighting the temperature implications of the gap between promises and action, the report explained.
In early September 2022, a youth movement called for global leaders to take “urgent and bold climate adaption action”.
In the best-case scenario, full implementation of unconditional NDCs and additional Net Zero emission commitments point to a 1.8C increase, so there is hope, the UNEP report noted. However, this scenario is not currently credible based on the discrepancy between current emissions, short-term NDC targets and long-term Net Zero targets, it warned.
It added that unprecedented cuts are needed over the next eight years in order to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. Unconditional and conditional NDCs are estimated to reduce global emissions in 2030 by 5% and 10% respectively, compared with emissions based on policies currently in place. To get on a least-cost pathway to holding global warming to 1.5C, emissions must fall by 45% over those envisaged under current policies by 2030. For the 2C target, a 30% cut is needed, the report pointed out.
Andersen commented, “It is a tall, and some would say impossible, order to reform the global economy and almost halve GHG emissions by 2030, but we must try. Every fraction of a degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to species and ecosystems, and to every one of us. Even if we don’t meet our 2030 goals, we must strive to get as close as possible to 1.5-degrees Celsius. This means setting up the foundations of a Net Zero future: one that will allow us to bring down temperature overshoots and deliver many other social and environmental benefits, like clean air, green jobs and universal energy access.”
Discussing sectors that are taking action to limit GHG emissions, the report said that transformations are underway in the electricity supply, industry, transportation and buildings segments, however it said that the transformation has to move “much faster”. The electricity supply sector was found to be the most advanced, however, the pace of change must increase alongside measures to ensure a just transition and universal energy access, the report said.
For buildings, the best available technologies need to be rapidly applied. For industry and transport, zero emission technology needs to be further developed and deployed. To advance the transformation, all sectors need to avoid lock in of new fossil fuel-intensive infrastructure, advance zero-carbon technology and apply it, and pursue behavioural changes, the report elaborated.
In mid-September 2022, data from Copernicus said that summer 2022 is the hottest on record for Europe.
In addition, the report also said that food systems can reform to deliver rapid and lasting cuts and noted that the sector accounts for a third of global GHG emissions. The focus areas for food systems include: protection of natural ecosystems, demand-side dietary changes, improvements in food production at the farm level and decarbonisation of food supply chains. Action in these four areas can reduce projected 2050 food system emissions to around a third of current levels, as opposed to emissions almost doubling if current practices are continued, it stated.
It highlighted that governments can facilitate transformation in this sector by reforming subsidies and tax schemes. It also called on the private sector to reduce food loss and waste, use renewable energy and develop novel foods that cut down carbon emissions. Individual citizens can change their lifestyles to consume food for environmental sustainability and carbon reduction, which will also bring many health benefits, it stated.
Highlighting influences that can enable the necessary global transformation, the report said that the financial system is critical, and that a global transformation to a low-emissions economy is expected to require investments of at least US $4-6tn a year. The report stated that this figure is a relatively small (1.5% to 2%) share of total financial assets managed globally, but significant (20% to 28%) with regards to additional annual resources to be allocated for the transformation to occur.
The report warned that most financial actors, despite stated intentions, have shown limited action on climate mitigation because of short-term interests, conflicting objectives and not recognising climate risks adequately. Governments and key financial actors will need to steer credibly in one direction: a transformation of the financial system and its structures and processes, engaging governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial actors, it said.
In late September 2022, the World Bank committed to $2bn in aid for Pakistan reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.