For all their ambitious climate action plans, governments need to move faster and with greater urgency.
After three years of stabilizing, in an encouraging sign, global carbon emissions have been on the rise again as national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have come up short, the United Nations says in its latest Emissions Gap Report.
Between 2014 and 2016, global CO2 emissions from industry and energy generation remained largely stable even as the global economy grew modestly. Yet last year these emissions shot up again by 1.2% as a result of higher GDPs worldwide.
If global emissions are not reduced significantly by 2020 or 2030 at the latest, it seems “extremely unlikely” that the Paris goal of keeping global temperature rises under 2°C will be met. Thus, efforts to reduce emissions must be stepped up urgently if we are to avoid triggering catastrophic climate change in coming decades.
Failing to do so could lead to apocalyptic scenarios whereby summer temperatures could be as much as 5.4 Celsius hotter in temperate regions such as parts of Europe by 2070 than temperatures recorded during the last two decades of the past century, according to the UN Environment.
“The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency,” says UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. “We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.”
With government efforts faltering, the best hope currently lies in surging momentum from the private sector and untapped potential from innovation and green-financing that offer pathways to bridge the emissions gap, UN experts say.
“There is still a tremendous gap between words and deeds, between the targets agreed by governments and the measures to achieve these goals,” stressed Gunnar Luderer, an author of the latest UN report who is a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
“Only a rapid turnaround here can help. Emissions must be reduced by a quarter by 2030 [to keep warming to no more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels] and for 1.5C emissions would have to be halved.”