The gap between countries’ greenhouse gas reduction plans and their promises under the Paris Agreement is even wider than previously believed, according to a major report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ahead of the annual UN climate conference opening next week in Katowice, Poland.
“We have new evidence that countries are not doing enough,” said Philip Drost, head of the steering committee for UNEP’s annual emissions gap report.
“All of the science suggests that peaking by 2020 is critical,” warned co-author and World Resources Institute analyst Kelly Levin. “If you miss that, we rely on much steeper reductions in the future.”
With global emissions of 53.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2017, en route to an anticipated 53 billion tons in 2030 after accounting for population and economic growth, the report puts the world “on a path to about 3.0°C/5.4°F of total warming by 2100,” the Washington Post reports. “Emissions can be about 40 billion tons annually in the year 2030 to preserve good odds of holding warming to 2.0°C, the UNEP report finds. And for 1.5°C, they would have to fall to 24 billion tons or so by that year—an extraordinarily steep plunge.”
In contrast to last month’s landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which set out a 12-year timeline for the sharp cuts required to make a 1.5°C pathway possible, “the new UNEP document presents considerably more direct policy analysis and perhaps even some finger-pointing,” the Post notes. “The document goes through Group of 20 member nations one by one, listing which ones are failing to live up to the promises they made in Paris three years ago (promises that, themselves, are far too little to keep the planet’s warming in check).”
UNEP concludes that Argentina, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, the United States, and the entire European Union are all falling short of their 2030 commitments. “Several other G-20 countries—Russia, India, and Turkey—are already on course to exceed their Paris promises by a good measure, but the report questions whether this may be in part because they have set their ambitions too low.”
The report “is likely to weigh heavily during a UN climate meeting that begins in Poland next week, where countries are scheduled to discuss how well they are, or are not, living up to the goals set in the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement,” writes climate specialist Chris Mooney. And the issue is not only what countries are or not doing, but the level of commitment they’ll need to achieve: between 2017 and 2018, UNEP increased its estimates of the emissions gap for both 2.0° and 1.5°C outcomes.