UNEP Identifies Lessons from a Decade of Emissions Gap Assessments
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Countries must triple ambition levels reflected in their NDCs to keep global average temperature rise to below 2°C above preindustrial levels and increase ambition five-fold to meet the 1.5°C target.

The report warns that another decade without cuts would “spell disaster”.

The last decade has seen significant advances in political and societal support, and technological and economic opportunities for, climate action.

22 September 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has published a paper outlining lessons learned from ten years of assessing emissions gaps, arguing that the last ten years have resulted in “a lost decade of climate action,” with increasing emissions, and faster and deeper emissions reductions needed as a result.

The paper titled, ‘Lessons from a Decade of Emissions Gap Assessments,’ warns that another decade without cuts would “spell disaster.” From 2008 to 2017, despite the warnings in each year’s Emissions Gap Report, emissions grew at an average of 1.6% annually, and emissions are now at the level where early Emissions Gap Reports projected they would be in 2020 if no action was taken. Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, a 3.5°C temperature increase this century, compared to pre-industrial levels, is expected. According to the report, countries must triple ambition levels reflected in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to keep global average temperature rise to below 2°C and increase ambition five-fold to meet the 1.5°C target.

The report also finds that the last decade has seen significant advances in political and societal support for climate action, and technological and economic opportunities for action, including:

  • record high political focus on the climate crisis, including through the Paris Agreement on climate change and youth protestors;
  • unprecedented actions by cities, regions and businesses, including 7,000 cities from 133 countries, 245 regions from 42 countries and 6,000 companies with at least USD 36 trillion in revenue pledging to cut emissions; and
  • improvements in technology for rapid and cost-effective emission reductions, for example the lowest-ever installation rates for renewable energy technology.

Only a fraction of emission reductions potential that can be delivered through currently proven technologies is spelled out in current NDCs.

The report argues that by using currently proven technologies, the world could cut 33 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) per year by 2030, which is more than half of today’s global annual emissions and enough to meet the 1.5°C target. Two-thirds of this potential is possible in the areas of solar and wind energy, efficient appliances and passenger cars, and afforestation and halting deforestation. Lamentably, the report notes, only “a fraction” of this potential is spelled out in current NDCs.

In addition, the report explains that: ending fossil fuel subsidies would reduce global emissions by up to 10% by 2030; reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), such as soot and methane, can quickly reduce temperatures; and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer can reduce warming by 0.4°C through reduced use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the cooling industry.

The ten-year summary was released during the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit. The 2019 Emissions Gap Report will be released in November, ahead of December’s Santiago Climate Change Conference, and will identify annual emissions cuts required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Emissions Gap Reports compare where emissions levels are headed to where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. [Publication: Lessons from a Decade of Emissions Gap Assessments] [Publication Landing Page] [UNEP Press Release] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2019 Emissions Gap Report Advance Chapter on G20 Opportunities to Enhance Ambition and Action]


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