UNEP Emissions Gap Report Highlights Role of Renewables, Energy Efficiency
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The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched the fifth edition of its Emissions Gap Report, which draws on the research of the world's main atmospheric science, climate change and policy centers to present a unified message on the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, present and future, using shared indicators.

This year's report finds that, under current trends and commitments, an additional gap of 14-17 gigatons of CO2-equivalent (Gt CO2-e) will need to be closed in 2030, if the world is to stay within the 2°C warming limit.

UNEP19 November 2014: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched the fifth edition of its Emissions Gap Report, which draws on the research of the world’s main atmospheric science, climate change and policy centers to present a unified message on the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, present and future, using shared indicators. This year’s report finds that, under current trends and commitments, an additional gap of 14-17 gigatons of CO2-equivalent (Gt CO2-e) will need to be closed in 2030, if the world is to stay within the 2°C warming limit.

The report tracks the voluntary policy commitments countries have made, many through 2020, and extrapolates how these policies will translate into emissions reductions through 2030. Using the science summarized in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings, the report measures the trajectory of global emissions against the carbon threshold at which the world surpasses the agreed 2°C limit, in order to evaluate the success of global efforts so far.

According to the IPCC, to stay within the target, the CO2 budget since 1870 is 2,900 Gt CO2, two-thirds of which has already been spent, leaving approximately 1,000 Gt CO2 in the budget. The Emissions Gap Report finds that, at the current spending rate, the world has approximately 30 years before going over budget. In 2030, the report finds total emissions should be at approximately 42 Gt CO2-equivalent. With current emission levels already at 54 Gt CO2-equivalent, UNEP calls for substantial reductions will be necessary. It stresses that pledges for 2020 extrapolated through 2030 reduce emissions by 9 Gt CO2-equivalent, but a gap of 14-17 Gt CO2-equivalent remains.

The report presents a series of milestones to keep the world on track. By 2030, CO2 emissions will need to have peaked and at mid-century the world should be at less than half the global emissions level in 2010. By 2055-2070, CO2 emissions and sequestration should net zero (‘carbon neutrality’); all GHG emissions should net zero by 2080-2100.

The report was launched on 19 November 2014, in Washington DC, US, by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI), Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientific Editor and UNFCCC Chief Scientist, and Tim Wirth, Vice Chair, United Nations Foundation. At the event, Steiner underlined that the report carries a very significant message. Aside from the looming threshold of 1,000 Gt CO2, he noted it contains very positive signals that the world is committing to action. He highlighted such recent actions as the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2014 and commitments to emissions reduction targets by the EU, US and China. While these commitments and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power plant rules were announced too recently to be included in the 2014 report, Steiner indicated they would be calculated into the analysis for the 2015 report.

The report outlines actions that can be scaled to close the gap. A section on energy efficiency finds that decreasing energy usage by, inter alia, buildings, vehicles and lighting could lead to reductions of 3-7 Gt CO2-e in 2030. It further indicates that potential savings of another 5 Gt CO2-e could result from further increasing renewable energy usage above current trajectories. [UNEP Emissions Gap Report Webpage] [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: The Emissions Gap Report 2014: A UNEP Synthesis Report] [Publication: Executive Summary of The Emissions Gap Report 2014: A UNEP Synthesis Report] [UNFCCC Press Release] [WRI Press Release on the Launch Event]

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