Climate action must increase urgently to meet targets – UN report

climate action
© iStock/MBRubin

A new report by the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP) has called for a drastic increase in global climate action.

The UNEP’s annual ‘Emissions Gap’ report cautions that, even if all the Paris Agreement’s signatory countries meet in full the commitments they have made on emissions reduction, global temperatures are still projected to rise by up to 3.2°C between 2020 and 2030. In order to meet the target enshrined in the Paris Agreement of keeping global heating at or below 1.5°C in the next decade, the report says, countries must increase their collective action on climate change to five times the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “For 10 years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and for 10 years, the world has only increased its emissions. There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”

The Emissions Gap report presents a yearly analysis of the disparity between the levels of emissions which are projected for 2030 and levels which would be consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The 2019 edition of the report notes that global levels of greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5% per year in the last decade; and that 2018 saw a record high rate of emissions. G20 countries were found to be responsible for 78% of the world’s emissions, with only five members of the G20 having adopted a long term climate action strategy for reaching net zero emissions.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 per cent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade. This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”

The report calls on national authorities to shore up their efforts on climate action and emissions reduction, with greater ambition urgently needed in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which outline each nation’s commitments to the Paris Agreement. While it is still possible to meet the goal of reducing global heating to 1.5°C by 2030, at this stage the target can only be met if all countries act swiftly and effectively to implement stricter climate policies.

Ms Andersen continued: “We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger Nationally Determined Contributions to kick start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated. If we don’t do this, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”

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