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United Nations: Countries must triple contributions to reach global climate goals

December 7, 2018

Countries must triple their environmental contributions in order to cap global warming this century at 2 degrees Celsius, as established in the Paris Agreement, revealed a United Nations Environmental report presented last week in Paris.

If the international community intends to reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius objective, which would keep the planet in a safe climate environment, then national commitments should increase five-fold, concluded the 2018 Emissions Gap Report.

The report shows that in 2017, greenhouse gas emissions increased after three years of stability. It highlights the need to begin to decrease emissions before 2030 to ensure compliance with the 2 degrees Celsius target.

If current trends continue, global warming will reach 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century and will continue to rise thereafter, the study indicates.

The annual UN Environment report evaluates the so-called “emissions gap” — the disparity between the levels of emissions foreseen in 2030 and the levels required to meet the 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius targets. It contains the most current analysis of countries’ voluntary mitigation efforts presented in their Determined Contributions, which are the basis of the Paris Agreement.

The report, presented days before the start of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), shows that in 2017 global emissions reached historic levels of 53.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent and that there is no evidence that they will begin to decrease in the coming years.

Just 57 countries are on track to start a downward trend before 2030, the study indicates. In general, to put the world on track to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, by 2030 global greenhouse gas emissions should be about 25 percent lower than they were in 2017.

The analysis and a review of the progress of national commitments under the Paris Agreement make it clear that the current pace of national action is insufficient to meet the Paris objectives. The increase in emissions and the slow pace of action imply that the emissions gap is now greater than ever.

“The recent IPCC report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius triggered global fire alarms, and this report investigates the causes of that fire,” said UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. “It’s clear: Governments must move faster and with greater urgency.

“The good news is that we have at our disposal all means to extinguish the fire.”

While the authors emphasize that there is still the possibility of closing the emissions gap and keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the assessment gives a clear warning that the necessary large-scale action has yet to be realized.

The Emissions Gap Report did present actions required to meet climate objectives.

The authors offered a road map to implement transformative measures in fiscal policy, private and subnational sectors.

Municipal, state and regional governments, companies, investors, universities, and civil society organizations are increasingly recognized as a key element to achieve global objectives and must be increasingly committed to bold climate action. Although estimates of the emission reduction potential of these sectors vary widely, some estimate up to 19 Gt CO2 by 2030.

This scenario, accompanied by carefully designed fiscal policy, has a greater potential of reducing global warming.

“When governments adopt taxes on fossil fuels and fiscal policy measures to subsidize low-emission alternatives, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions,” said Jian Liu, Chief Environmental Scientist of the UN.

“Fortunately, the potential to use fiscal policy as an incentive is increasingly recognized,” Liu added. “Fifty-one carbon pricing initiatives that cover approximately 15% of global emissions are already implemented or planned. If all fossil fuel subsidies were eliminated, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10% by 2030.

“It is also essential to establish the correct carbon price. At $70 per ton of CO2, in some countries, it is possible to reduce emissions up to 40 percent.”

The report describes five key principles to accelerate low-carbon innovation, among them the absorption of risks by the public sector to make possible the commercialization of technologies.

The ninth Emissions Gap Report was prepared by an international team of leading scientists who evaluated all available information, including the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report.

This story first appeared in Latin ClimaIt was translated and republished as part of a partnership with Lagin Clima. Read the original story in Spanish here

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