Late warnings from UNEP

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

UNEP's emissions gap report (2016) makes for uneasy reading, but is probably a necessary counter to all the over-positivity that has surrounded the recent 'agreement' of the Paris Agreement.  The report calls for less complacency all round.  Here's the start of the summary:

The strengthened long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement require even stronger actions than previously identified, calling for accelerated efforts pre-2020, as well as increasing the ambition of the Nationally Determined Contributions. The Paris Agreement has very specific language about the long-term goals and how to get there, including:

  • A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C) above pre-industrial levels.
  • An aim to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • The need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, followed by a rapid decline – recognising that this will take longer for developing countries.

Compared to the 2°C goal that was the reference point of earlier Emissions Gap Reports, these new objectives require stronger short-term action and deeper cuts in the medium and longer term, as the remaining carbon dioxide budget is now considerably lower. Against the background of the large emissions gap that was identified in previous reports, this further amplifies the need for ambitious early action that accelerates and strengthens the Nationally Determined Contributions of countries.  Enhanced pre-2020 and pre-2030 action will reduce the so-called transitional challenges associated with the necessary shift in emissions pathways, and:

  • Reduce the lock-in of carbon and energy intensive infrastructure in society and the energy system, encourage the rapid deployment of state of the art technologies, and spur near-term learning and development of technologies that will be essential in the long term.
  • Reduce the overall costs and economic challenges during the transitional period, for example, in terms of upscaling energy investments.
  • Reduce future dependence on unproven technologies, including negative emissions technologies, and increase the options to achieve stringent emission reductions.
  • Reduce climate risks, for example, by reducing the pace of the global temperature increase.
  • Realise immediate co-benefits through enhanced early action on climate change mitigation, such as improved public health as a result of lower air pollution, improved energy security, and reduced crop yield losses.

Additional early action will be essential to keeping the door open to limit warming to below 1.5°C by 2100.


These headline statements caught my gloomy eye:

  • Collectively, members of the G20 are on a likely track to meet their Cancun Pledges for 2020, but these pledges do not deliver the necessary early emission reductions.
  • Pathways for staying well below 2 and 1.5°C require deep emission reductions after, and preferably also before, 2020 and lower levels of emissions in 2030 than earlier assessed 2°C pathways.
  • The emissions gap for 2030 is 12 to 14 GtCO2e compared with 2°C scenarios, for 1.5°C the gap is three GtCO2e larger. Even if fully implemented, the unconditional Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are only consistent with staying below an increase in temperature of 3.2°C by 2100 and 3.0°C, if conditional Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are included.
  • The Paris Agreement defines the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on climate change. Making the right choices in implementing all goals will be crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement objectives and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

And so on ...

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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