COUNTRIES around the world must urgently improve their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions or face a catastrophic 3°C of global warming by 2100, the UN Environmental Programme (Unep) reported yesterday.
In its latest Emissions Gap report Unep said that commitments made under the Paris climate agreement don’t come close to what is needed to meet the basic goal of limiting warming to 2°C or the further target of 1.5°C.
It means that countries’ targets — called nationally determined contributions, after negotiators gave up and told states just to come up with their own numbers — haven’t improved in the two years since the deal was signed.
Unep said that the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement makes the picture even bleaker.
“One year after the Paris agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said Unep head Erik Solheim.
“This is unacceptable. If we invest in the right technologies … we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future. But we
have to get on the case now.”
The report states that the way to cut emissions more rapidly is clear and the costs fairly low: greater investment in wind and solar power, switching to emissions-free and efficient transport, stopping deforestation and planting more forests.
Yet, according to the Climate Action Tracker group, only Morocco’s pledge is compatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C. And only five other countries’ pledges match the 2°C target.
However, China, which emits the most CO2, is an outlier. Its stated target is ranked as “highly insufficient” — heading for 3 or 4°C of warming — but in practice it has blown past its own ambitious domestic targets for wind and solar power.
Scientists warn that at 3°C of warming the world’s climate might tip over the edge. Fire and drought would devastate the Amazon rainforest and lead to ever greater warming.
But even 1.5°C of warming — the world has already reached 1°C — would cause sea levels to rise by several metres and devastate low-lying regions.