Paris (AFP) – The world will miss its chance to avert climate disaster without an immediate and all-but-impossible fall in fossil fuel emissions, the UN said Tuesday in its annual assessment on greenhouse gases.
The United Nations Environment Programme said that global emissions need to fall by 7.6 percent each year until 2030 to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C.
The harsh reality is that emissions have risen on average 1.5 percent annually over the last decade, hitting a record 55.3 billion tonnes of CO2 or equivalent greenhouse gases in 2018 — three years after 195 countries signed the Paris treaty on climate change.
The World Meterological Organization said Monday that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit an all-time record in 2018.
The Paris deal committed nations to limit temperature rises above pre-industrial levels to “well below” 2C, and to a safer 1.5-C if at all possible.
To do so they agreed on the need to reduce emissions and work towards a low-carbon world within decades.
Yet the UN found that even taking into account current Paris pledges, the world is on track for a 3.2C temperature rise, something scientists fear could tear at the fabric of society.
Even if every country made good on its promises, Earth’s “carbon budget” for a 1.5-C rise — the amount we can emit to stay below a certain temperature threshold — would be exhausted within a decade.
In its own words, the UN assessment is “bleak”.
While it insisted the 1.5C goal is still attainable, it acknowledged that this would require an unprecedented, coordinated upheaval of a global economy that is still fuelled overwhelmingly by oil- and gas-fuelled growth.
“We are failing to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” UNEP’s executive director, Inger Andersen, told AFP.
“Unless we take urgent action now and make very significant cuts to global emissions we’re going to miss the target of 1.5C.”
– Cost of inaction –
The Emissions Gap report, now in its tenth year, also details the cost of a decade of government inaction.
Had serious climate action begun in 2010, just after the Copenhagen summit that breathed new life into the debate, annual needed emissions cuts would be 0.7 percent for 2C of warming and 3.3 percent for 1.5C.