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Cut Global Emissions by 7.6% Every Year: UN Report

As it does each year, the report focuses on the potential of selected sectors to deliver emissions cuts. This year it looks at the energy transition and the potential of efficiency in the use of materials, which can go a long way to closing the emissions gap

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emissions
Without urgent action, those emissions will nearly double by 2050. Pixabay

BY VISHAL GULATI 

On the eve of a year in which nations are due to strengthen their Paris climate pledges, a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Tuesday warned that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap Report says that even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2 degrees Celsius, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts.

Collective ambition must increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade for the 1.5 degrees goal. 2020 is a critical year for climate action, with the UN climate change conference in Glasgow aiming to determine the future course of efforts to avert crisis, and countries expected to significantly step up their climate commitments.

“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,” UNEP’s Executive Director Inger Andersen said.

“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.”

“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,” she added.

“If we don’t do this, the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal will be out of reach before 2030.”

FILE – Mexico’s new climate law promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, which should make a difference in Mexico City, among the most polluted cities in the world. VOA

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius will increase the frequency and intensity of climate impacts, such as the heatwaves and storms witnessed across the globe in the last few years.

G20 nations collectively account for 78 per cent of all emissions, but only five G20 members have committed to a long-term zero emissions target.

In the short-term, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions quicker than developing countries, for reasons of fairness and equity.

However, all countries will need to contribute more to collective effects. Developing countries can learn from successful efforts in developed countries; they can even leapfrog them and adopt cleaner technologies at a faster rate.

Crucially, the report says all nations must substantially increase ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as the Paris commitments are known, in 2020 and follow up with policies and strategies to implement them.

Solutions are available to make meeting the Paris goals possible, but they are not being deployed fast enough or at a sufficiently large scale.

Each year, the Emissions Gap Report assesses the gap between anticipated emissions in 2030 and levels consistent with the 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius targets of the Paris Agreement. The report finds that greenhouse gas emissions have risen 1.5 per cent per year over the last decade.

Emissions in 2018, including from land-use changes such as deforestation, hit a new high of 55.3 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

world forests, emergency
The loss of huge swathes of forest around the world also has major implications for climate change as they absorb a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally. Pixabay

To limit temperatures, annual emissions in 2030 need to be 15 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent lower than current unconditional NDCs imply for the 2 degrees Celsius goal; they need to be 32 gigatonnes lower for the 1.5 degrees goal.

On an annual basis, this means cuts in emissions of 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 to meet the 1.5 degrees goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2 degrees goal.

To deliver on these cuts, the levels of ambition in the NDCs must increase at least fivefold for the 1.5 degrees goal and threefold for the 2 degrees Celsius.

Also Read: Living in Coastal Areas Can Support Better Mental Health: Study

Climate change can still be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report says. There is increased understanding of the additional benefits of climate action — such as clean air and a boost to the Sustainable Development Goals.

There are many ambitious efforts from governments, cities, businesses and investors. Solutions, and the pressure and will to implement them, are abundant.

As it does each year, the report focuses on the potential of selected sectors to deliver emissions cuts. This year it looks at the energy transition and the potential of efficiency in the use of materials, which can go a long way to closing the emissions gap. (IANS)

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rising Rapidly: Global Carbon Project Estimate

Carbon Dioxide Emissions on Steady Upward Trend

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Carbon Dioxide
In this slow-shutter zoom effect photo, commuters are backed up in traffic during the morning rush hour, in Brussels, emitting Carbon Dioxide. VOA

Carbon dioxide emissions rose in 2019 for the third straight year, according to the latest Global Carbon Project estimate, and do not look set to fall before the end of the next decade.

This is more bad news for United Nations negotiators in Madrid to consider as they aim to hammer out rules for implementing the 2015 Paris international agreement on limiting climate change.

This year’s 0.6% growth in CO2 emissions is slower than the previous two years. Steep declines in coal use in the United States and Europe, combined with weaker global economic growth, were behind the slowdown, the report says.

But slowing growth is not enough. A recent United Nations report said emissions must decline by at least 2.7% per year to keep the planet from overheating.

Emissions look likely to continue in the wrong direction for years to come, according to Stanford University Earth scientist Rob Jackson, chair of the Global Carbon Project, the international research consortium that published the findings Tuesday in Earth System Science Data.

“I am, I have to confess, not very optimistic that in a five-to-year timescale, we’ll see a peak in emissions,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong. I really hope I’m wrong.”

Drought due to carbon dioxide
A man walks past the carcass of sheep that died from the El Nino-related drought in Marodijeex town of southern Hargeysa, in northern Somalia’s semi-autonomous Somaliland region. VOA

Widening gap

The data follow a bleak report from the United Nations on the widening gap between what the world needs to do to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and what countries actually are doing to meet their Paris pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Paris agreement, countries aim to limit global warming to “well under” 2 degrees Celsius and to “pursue efforts” to keep it to 1.5C over pre-industrial times. Currently, the planet has warmed about 1C, raising sea levels and producing more weather extremes, including heat waves, droughts, and heavy storms.

The U.N. Emissions Gap Report finds that the world is headed for 3.4 to 3.9 degrees of warming by 2100. If all the Paris pledges are met, temperatures still will warm by 3.2 degrees, with potentially devastating impacts on food security, water supplies and public health.

The report says countries need to triple their greenhouse gas reductions to reach the 2-degree target and cut them five-fold to reach 1.5 degrees.

That report is based on 2018 data. The new report released Tuesday offers the first look at 2019.

China carbon dioxide
A coal processing plant that is emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. VOA

Coal, oil

The good news is that, compared to last year, the world burned less coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel. Coal emissions were down 0.9%, mostly from sharp falls in the United States and Europe (both about 10%). China and India increased coal emissions (0.8% and 2%, respectively), but less than in recent years.

Oil makes up the second-largest share of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from transportation. Unlike coal, however, emissions from oil have been growing steadily for decades and show no signs of decreasing. They were up 0.9% this year.

Electric vehicle sales are rising, but not nearly fast enough to offset the growing global fleet of gas and diesel engines.

For example, more than a million electric vehicles were sold last year in China, the world’s largest auto market.

“They led the world in electric vehicle purchases,” Jackson said. “But they still put 20-million-plus new gasoline-based vehicles on their roads.”

Gas Pipeline
Tubes are stored in Sassnitz, Germany, to construct the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany. VOA

Natural gas

The decline in coal CO2 emissions also was partly canceled out by rapid growth in natural gas. It’s the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. More than one-third of the increase in global CO2 over the last decade has come from the rise of natural gas.

Burning natural gas produces 40% less carbon dioxide than coal, and the switch from coal to gas has played a major role in reducing emissions in the United States.

Globally, however, most natural gas is fueling new power plants, not replacing coal, Jackson said.

“We’re not taking fossil fuels offline,” he added. “We’re just adding new production.”

Also Read- Human Health Affected due to Climate Change: WHO

The same pattern is true for renewable energy, he said. While increasing amounts of wind and solar power are coming online, they mainly are meeting demand growth, not replacing fossil fuels.

“Public policies need to place far more importance on directly cutting back the use of fossil fuels,” the report says. (VOA)