The world is heading towards an increase in its average temperature of between 2.5 and 2.9 °C this century, close to double the ideal objective, warned yesterday the UN, which called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating the energy transition to contain climate change.
Scientists warn that warming at these levels could make vast regions of the planet virtually uninhabitable for humans and cause irreversible tipping points in the land and oceans.
A few days before the UN climate change conference COP28 in the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) announced in a report that the average temperature of the planet is already 1.2 °C above the one it had in the pre-industrial era, close to the 1.5 º C to which it should be limited.
“It is necessary to take drastic measures now,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in New York.
“Leaders must dramatically redouble their efforts, with record ambitions, record actions and record emissions reductions,” added Guterres ahead of COP28 to be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.
This requires “uprooting the poisonous roots of the climate crisis: fossil fuels,” he noted.
Guterres called the gap between states’ commitments and what would be necessary to respect the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement and limit global warming to “a failure of leadership, a betrayal of those who are vulnerable and a huge missed opportunity.” 1.5 ºC compared to pre-industrial levels.
A CRY OF WARNING
Published shortly before COP28, the UNEP text is a new warning cry. This year is set to be the warmest on record, and the report notes that “the world is witnessing a disturbing acceleration in the number, speed and scale of climate records broken.”
To reduce emissions quickly enough to avoid catastrophic impacts, “ambitious and urgent efforts are required from all countries to minimize fossil fuel use and deforestation,” UNEP said.
The report calls on all countries to carry out economy-wide low-carbon development transformations, focusing on the energy transition.
The coal, oil and gas extracted over the life of mines and fields in production and planned would emit more than 3.5 times the carbon budget available to limit warming to 1.5 ° C, and almost all of that available for 2 °C, according to the text.
The transition to low-carbon development poses economic and institutional challenges for low- and middle-income countries, but also offers important opportunities. Transitions in these countries can help provide universal energy access, lift millions of people out of poverty, and expand strategic industries.
UNEP director Inger Andersen urged G20 nations, responsible for approximately 80% of emissions, to lead global emissions reductions. Some, she warned, are in “pause mode.”
“It is absolutely critical that the G20 step up its efforts,” Andersen said.
The UNEP report examines the difference between the emissions that will still be sent into the atmosphere under countries’ decarbonization plans and what science says is needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which established that countries agreed to limit global warming “well below” +2 °C, and if possible, to +1.5 °C.
By 2030, global emissions will need to be 28% lower than current policies suggest to stay below 2°C, and 42% lower for the more ambitious limit of +1.5°C, the report said. .
Currently, the projected increase should be 3%.
However, unless emission levels are further reduced by 2030, it will be impossible to establish least-cost pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with no or low overshoot during this century.
The only way to avoid a significant overshoot of 1.5°C is to significantly accelerate implementation in this decade.
“We have a lot of work to do because right now we are not where we should be,” Andersen said.
Under the Paris Agreement reached at COP21 in the French capital, countries must submit increasingly extensive emissions reduction plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.
UNEP estimates that full implementation of the NDCs by 2030, without taking into account external support, would give a 66% percent chance that the Earth’s average temperature will increase by 2.9°C by 2100.
If emissions reduction promises are not taken into account, the world is inevitably heading towards more than +3 °C.
An alarming scenario
❑ The average temperature of the planet is already 1.2°C above what it was in the pre-industrial era.
❑ The possibility of limiting the temperature increase to +1.5ºC is already only 14 percent, according to the most optimistic projections.
❑ If the most industrialized nations do not fulfill their promises to reduce emissions, the world is inevitably heading towards more than +3°C by the year 2100.