Climate Change

World must cut annual emissions by 7.6% till 2030 to meet 1.5°C target: UNEP

Even if current commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C

By Tarun Gopalakrishnan
Published: Tuesday 26 November 2019
World must cut annual emissions by 7.6 % for next decade to meet 1.5°C Paris target, says UN report. Photo: Getty Images
World must cut annual emissions by 7.6 % for next decade to meet 1.5°C Paris target, says UN report. Photo: Getty Images World must cut annual emissions by 7.6 % for next decade to meet 1.5°C Paris target, says UN report. Photo: Getty Images

Even as nations are set to meet next year to strengthen their Paris climate pledges, a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report warns that the world has to cut its emissions by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030 to get on track towards the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

In 2018, the world emitted a record high of 55.3 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent of greenhouse gases (GHG), up from the previous record of 54 gigatonnes set in 2017, highlights the UN Environment’s annual Emissions Gap report, which analyses the gap between the current emissions pathway and the pathway needed to limit warming over the coming century.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use in the energy and industry sectors, which dominate total GHG emissions, grew 2 per cent in 2018, reaching a record 37.5 gigatonnes per year.

The report sees no sign of GHG emissions peaking in the next few years and cautions that every year of postponed peaking means that deeper and faster cuts will be required. To stay under 2°C, by the year 2030, emissions would need to be 25 per cent lower than in 2018. For a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the reduction needed is even deeper 55 per cent below 2018 levels.

Key economies continue to underachieve on the targets which they set for themselves in Paris in 2015, known as “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs). The report identifies Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, South Africa and the United States of America as countries which still need additional policies to achieve their Paris targets.

For Brazil, the report notes, “the emissions projections from three annually updated publications were all revised upward, reflecting the recent trend towards increased deforestation, among others”.

It is unclear whether Argentina, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are on track to meet their unconditional NDCs. China, the EU28, India, Mexico, Russia and Turkey are projected to meet their targets with current policies. India, Russia and Turkey are projected to be ‘overperform’ their targets by around 15 percent.

The report notes a very recent policy development — that the EU28 has introduced domestic climate legislation targeting at least a 40 per cent reduction in GHG emissions.  The European Commission projects that this could be overachieved if domestic legislation is fully implemented in member states.

Even countries meeting their targets are subject to a caveat — that their targets could be much more ambitious. India’s target is generally considered among the more ambitious in the world, but Russia, China and Turkey have domestic targets which are consistent with more than 4°C of warming. The report suggests that these countries have “room to raise their NDC ambition significantly.”

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