The latest UN report on the state of the global climate has revealed a stark contrast between the ambitious targets set by the Paris agreement and the actual emissions trends of the world. The report, which is based on scientific and technical data, as well as consultations with governments, business and civil society, shows that the current policies and actions are not enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and that much more is needed now on all fronts.
The 2030 emissions gap
One of the key findings of the report is that there is a huge gap between the emissions reductions that are required to meet the 1.5°C goal and the emissions projections based on the current pledges and policies of countries. According to the report, global emissions need to drop by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 to be on track for the 1.5°C goal. However, based on the current trends, global emissions are expected to increase by about 16% from 2010 levels by 2030, resulting in a gap of about 22 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.
This gap is equivalent to the combined emissions of the top five polluters today: China, US, India, Russia and Japan. The report warns that if this gap is not closed by 2030, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the 1.5°C goal later.
The urgent need for transformation
The report emphasizes that closing the emissions gap requires a systemic transformation of every aspect of society, including energy supply, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use. The report identifies some of the indispensable actions that are needed to achieve this transformation, such as:
- Scaling up renewable energy and phasing out all unabated fossil fuels
- Ending deforestation and restoring degraded ecosystems
- Reducing methane emissions, especially from oil and gas operations
- Enhancing energy efficiency and electrification
- Promoting circular economy and sustainable consumption patterns
- Supporting innovation and technology development
The report also stresses that these actions need to be implemented in a fair and equitable manner, taking into account the different capacities and responsibilities of countries, as well as the needs and rights of vulnerable groups and communities. The report calls for enhancing international cooperation and solidarity, as well as mobilizing finance and investment to support the transition.
The benefits of action
The report highlights that taking action to close the emissions gap is not only necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, but also beneficial for human health, well-being and development. The report estimates that by pursuing the 1.5°C pathway, millions of premature deaths from air pollution could be avoided every year, as well as billions of dollars in economic losses from extreme weather events. The report also notes that many of the actions that reduce emissions also contribute to other sustainable development goals, such as poverty eradication, food security, biodiversity conservation and social justice.
The report concludes that achieving the 1.5°C goal is still possible, but it requires unprecedented levels of ambition and action from all actors and sectors. The report urges leaders to seize the opportunity of the upcoming UN climate summit Cop28 in November to raise their commitments and accelerate their actions to close the emissions gap and secure a safer and more prosperous future for all.