UNEP Emissions Gap Report Warns of “Dwindling” Potential to Bridge 1.5°C Gap
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The report notes that while keeping global warming below 2°C above preindustrial levels is still technically possible, the potential to bridge the 1.5°C gap “is dwindling”.

It emphasizes the need to reduce emissions by 19 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 to close the 2°C gap.

The report finds that global emissions have risen for the first time in four years and have reached historic levels with no signs of peaking.

27 November 2018: Global emissions are rising, and while countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) fall short of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, increasing private sector momentum and untapped potential from innovation and green financing provide ways to bridge the emissions gap, according to the ‘Emissions Gap Report 2018,’ published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment).

The report notes that if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, meeting the 2°C temperature goal will be unlikely. It also contends that while keeping global warming below 2°C above preindustrial levels is still technically possible, the potential to bridge the 1.5°C gap “is dwindling.”

The report was released ahead of the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC, meeting in Katowice, Poland, from 2-14 December 2018. It will contribute scientific evidence to inform decision making during the conference, which is expected to adopt implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement.

If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, emissions could be reduced by up to 10% by 2030.

The report finds that:

  • global emissions have risen for the first time in four years and have reached historic levels with no signs of peaking;
  • only 57 countries representing 60% of global emissions are on track to peak their emissions by 2030;
  • the current pace of national action is insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, and the gap in 2018 is larger than ever;
  • countries must triple their ambition levels to meet the 2°C goal, and increase ambition five-fold to meet the 1.5°C target; and
  • continuing with the current trends will likely lead to global warming of around 3°C by the end of the century.

The report analyzes global emissions in the context of fiscal policy, innovation and climate action from the private sector and sub-national level, and presents a roadmap for implementing transformative action in these areas. It emphasizes the need to reduce emissions by 19 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030 to close the 2°C gap, with greater potential if complimented by the right fiscal policies, such as subsidizing low-emission alternatives and taxing fossil fuels. In accelerating low-carbon innovation, the report mentions risk acceptance commercial scalability, holistic economic alignment, mission-oriented approaches and a long term-horizon to increase financial uptake.

Speaking about the report, Jian Liu, UNEP’s Chief Scientist, said that 51 carbon pricing initiatives are in place or scheduled, covering around 15% of global emissions, and that if all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, emissions could be reduced by up to 10% by 2030. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed the need to help countries fulfill their NDCs and ramp up ambition. She also urged countries that have already developed innovative climate change solutions and technology to share their knowledge and approaches with others.

The Emissions Gap Report is the UNEP’s annual flagship report and assesses the “emissions gap,” or the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels consistent with a 2°C/1.5°C target. This is the ninth edition of the report. [Publication: Emissions Gap Report 2018] [Executive Summary] [Publication Landing Page] [Report Interactive Webpage] [UNEP Press Release] [UN News Story] [Statement of UNFCCC Executive Secretary at the Africa Climate Change/Israel Contribution Conference]


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