With record greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 on track to deliver 3.0°C average global warming, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is calling on the world’s wealthiest countries to cut their carbon footprints by a factor of 30 to hold off the worst effects of climate change, while climate campaigners point to a dozen fossil megaprojects set to drive emissions even higher.
Carbon pollution from the world’s richest 1% is more than double the emissions attributable to the poorest 50%, UNEP’s annual emissions gap report concludes. And while that finding points to the need for “swift and substantial lifestyle changes,” the Washington Post reports, “individual choices are hardly the only key to mitigating the intensifying consequences of climate change.”
Notwithstanding a temporary, 7% emissions expected this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, “nations would need to ‘roughly triple’ their current emissions-cutting pledges to limit the Earth’s warming to ‘well below’ 2.0°C/3.6°F above the preindustrial average—a central aim of the Paris climate agreement,” the Post adds. To hit 1.5°C, “countries would need to increase their targets at least five-fold. That goal in particular would require rapid and profound changes in how societies travel, produce electricity, and eat.”
The report shows global greenhouse gas emissions increasing by an average of about 1.4% per year over the past decade, Reuters writes. “Last year saw the highest global emissions ever recorded, at 59 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, a category that includes not only the principal greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, but also methane and other climate-warming agents.”
That record set a trajectory for disastrous 3.0°C average global warming, the news agency adds. Even though emissions are down this year, climate impacts are still accelerating—after a year of rapid Arctic ice loss and record heat and wildfires, European researchers reported this week that last month was the hottest November since record-keeping began.
“The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms, and droughts continue to wreak havoc,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.
“We’d better make these shifts, because while COVD has been bad, there is hope at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine,” she added in an interview with the Post. “But there is no vaccine for the planet.”
With the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement coming up Saturday, a group of 18 non-government organizations led by Germany’s Urgewald are out with a list of 12 fossil fuel megaprojects that would take up two-thirds of the carbon budget remaining if countries hope to stabilize average global warming at 1.5°C.
“The report exposes the banks and investors that are providing financing to the fossil fuel companies developing large-scale, contested coal, oil, and gas expansion projects,” Urgewald writes. “The 12 case studies highlight the immense environmental damage, violation of Indigenous rights, negative health impacts, human rights concerns, and expected CO2 emissions caused by each of the projects.”
The list of projects includes oil and gas drilling in the U.S. Permian Basin and Argentina’s Vaca Muerta region, new coal plants in China, fossil gas extraction on Mozambique, and offshore oil and gas development by the United Kingdom and Norway. The Royal Bank of Canada emerges as one of the key financiers.
“Instead of adopting a rigorous approach that would prevent the expansion of fossil fuels and facilitate their phaseout, global banks are refusing to break with the fatal growth trend of fossil extraction,” said Reclaim Finance Executive Director Lucie Pinson. “BNP Paribas, JPMorgan Chase, and Mitsubishi all have very different coal, oil, and gas exclusion policies,” but “there is something that clearly unites them: they all keep supporting some of the worst projects worldwide through their loyal financing to the oil and gas majors.”