The UN Environment Programme's Emissions Gap Report 2023: A Critical Assessment of the Global Promissory Protocol - Seeker's Thoughts

Recent Posts

Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

The UN Environment Programme's Emissions Gap Report 2023: A Critical Assessment of the Global Promissory Protocol


UN Environment Program has warned that countries have only 14% chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius if all existing pledges are fully implemented, according to its new report assessing government pledges through Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, including unconditional and conditional pledges to emissions reduction targets.

The global economy must set new records when it comes to climate policies and greener development transformation, according to experts.

The Global Progression

As recent climate-related disasters demonstrate, humanity is far off track to meet the Paris Agreement targets for limiting global warming. If countries don't significantly step up their efforts quickly to reduce carbon emissions, scientists warn of catastrophic repercussions for life on Earth. That message was conveyed by UNEP's Emissions Gap Report released this year comparing what countries pledged versus what is required to reach Paris Agreement's 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) goal.

The report, prepared annually by the UN Environment Program, includes projections based on current scientific knowledge and compares both unconditional and conditional national pledges made under the Paris Climate Agreement to what's necessary to avoid its worst outcomes. According to last year's UNEP report which projected us on a path toward 2.9C warming, however, that gap has narrowed somewhat since.

This trend can be explained by more countries meeting their current pledges than originally estimated, according to this report. Furthermore, various levels of ambition were studied; one note being if all countries fully implemented both conditional and unconditional pledges as required for 1.5C climate action plans simultaneously the gap could reduce to 22GtCO2e by 2030.

Reaching these levels will require significant adjustments in economic policy, particularly from low and middle income countries which account for two thirds of global emissions. According to the report, low and middle income nations must balance legitimate development needs with low emission growth trajectories for sustainable development.

Energy remains one of the primary drivers of climate-related emissions worldwide. To mitigate its impacts, this report recommends investing heavily in clean energy sources like renewables and battery storage while encouraging countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and promote electric vehicle deployment. Furthermore, it urges countries to adopt agricultural systems with "lower carbon and biodiversity-friendly practices", and promote more sustainable land-use and management techniques.

But these steps alone will not suffice; global economic expansion is gathering steam quickly, and unless countries revaluate their development pathways quickly enough, this planet will set new records of temperatures, disasters and extreme weather events.

The Global Shortfalls

UN Emissions Gap Report's results paint an alarming picture: we are on track for global temperature increases far exceeding Paris Agreement goals unless nations increase their climate action commitments substantially. The UN report details pledged reductions versus what is necessary to stabilize global warming; its primary purpose is to inform negotiators at this year's COP28 climate summit, which kicks off this week in Dubai; additionally it showcases nations' efforts at cutting greenhouse gas emissions through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), while showing where gaps lie between those efforts and targets set forth by Paris Agreement targets.

Even if all nations fully implement unconditional NDCs, there will still be an emissions pathway consistent with keeping warming below 1.5C through 2030 - with 14GtCO2e being the gap. If all unconditional and conditional NDCs are implemented simultaneously through 2030, however, that difference decreases to around 11GtCO2.

At approximately 18GtCO2e reductions each year between 2030-2033 to meet the 1.5C goal, we remain far below what's needed if net zero ambitions remain hollow or no steps are taken to control emissions from land-use change. The gap will only widen further if nothing is done to limit emissions associated with land-use change.

This report shows how emissions gaps widen as nations grow richer and more populous, often with greater dependence on fossil fuels for energy sources such as South Africa's rapid rise in energy consumption and higher electricity demands than Japan despite lower per capita income levels; as a result, more emissions are produced making it harder to meet the 1.5C target.

Scientists warn that the world is missing opportunities to reduce emissions by not investing sufficiently in renewable energy, improving efficiency and switching to low-carbon technologies. Governments plan on producing more coal, oil and natural gas than is consistent with keeping temperatures under 1.5C.

Carbon Brief editor Simon Evans states, "Today's wildfires and droughts, crop failures and flash floods, shifting weather patterns and heatwaves are directly due to excess greenhouse gas emissions," and urges for immediate action to mitigate damage by shifting towards renewable energies, decreasing fossil fuel usage and making rapid cuts with those polluters who pollute more than most others.

The Global Pathway

This year's Emissions Gap Report emphasizes the need for change: it evaluates countries' pledges on climate action against what's necessary to keep global warming well below 2degC and pursue 1.5degC warming targets. If it doesn't, according to this analysis, global temperatures could exceed 3degC by 2100 and potentially lead to irreparable consequences such as runaway melting of polar ice sheets or drying of Amazon rainforests - two outcomes likely leading to severe disaster.

The report details how the global emissions gap can be closed through new policies and technologies, such as rapid transition to clean energy sources such as renewable energies; reduction of fossil fuel use through reduction in consumption as well as phase out existing extraction infrastructure; as well as significant decreases in agricultural emissions such as by limiting animal protein consumption in diets or restricting deforestation.

At present, fossil fuel emissions make up 81% of total GHGs emissions. To bridge this gap and close it down quickly, reductions must come from shifting from coal to renewables and cutting back emissions from agriculture. The report provides a timeline to show what's at stake and outlines these efforts in detail.

Attaining net-zero emissions requires an ambitious increase beyond current policies from all Group of 20 (G20) nations, particularly when implemented fully - as projected by MitiQ, its policy tracker, the gap would shrink to around 14GtCO2e by 2030 with high risks of 3degC of warming still present. When conditional NDCs (shown as light blue lines in chart below) are included as conditional pledges the gap is further reduced - though still leaving little chance to avoid 3degC of warming!

The report cautions that low and lower-middle income countries will require assistance in order to effectively implement their Nationally Determined Contributions, particularly by accessing affordable finance for clean energy investments. As such, policy levers have been suggested in order to facilitate this goal as well as address climate finance and energy poverty effectively.

The Future

UNEP's Emissions Gap Report, which compiles and forecasts scientific findings and emissions trends, indicates that global temperatures could reach dangerously high temperatures far beyond Paris Agreement's goal of keeping global warming to 1.5degC or below. Without immediate and aggressive action to cut carbon emissions by countries worldwide, global temperatures will likely exceed this goal and reach perilously high levels well beyond Paris Agreement's 1.5degC cap goal.

The report details emissions reductions necessary to bridge the gap between current policies and what is required by Paris Agreement. It shows that global GHG emissions must peak by 2025 at the latest and be cut by at least 25% by 2030 for any hope of keeping global warming within 2degC; this requires substantial acceleration of emissions reduction efforts - particularly among higher emitters in richer regions - while providing support for low carbon development across all nations including those considered least developed.

This year's report finds that the gap between projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2035 under current policies and what's needed to meet Paris Agreement targets of limiting warming to 1.5degC has slightly widen compared to last year. Although progress remains evident from several countries that have introduced or enhanced policy actions. Full implementation of unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would limit global temperature rise to 2.5degC above pre-industrial levels but few nations are on course towards reaching net zero goals by 2035.

As the climate crisis escalates, four forces for rapid transformation have come together: social movements, increased discussions of net-zero targets in many countries, economic logic of low-carbon transition and technological advances. Acceleration is possible - it's just important that we start today.

If we do nothing, we risk an alarming three degree Celsius rise in global average temperatures and run the risk of passing key climate tipping points such as major loss of ice sheets or cutting off an important ocean current that would make limiting warming to 1.5degC or lower even harder. According to this report, "it is imperative that we change track", because otherwise we risk repeating ourselves year after year when discussing climate change solutions.

No comments:

Post a Comment