- Climate promises put the world on track for a temperature increase of 2.4 to 2.6°C by the end of this century
- Updated commitments since COP26 in Glasgow reduce less than 1% of projected greenhouse gas emissions for 2030; 45 percent is needed to limit global warming to 1.5 °C
- Transforming the power, industrial, transportation, and building sectors, as well as the food and financial systems, would help put the world on a path to success
Nairobi, October 27, 2022 – As the growing climate impact around the world hammers the message that greenhouse gas emissions must fall quickly, a new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) finds that the international community is still far from the Paris targets and has no credible path to 1, 5 °C has C present.
However, the Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window – The climate crisis requires a rapid transformation of societies Notes that urgent sector and system-wide transformations – in the power, industrial, transport and buildings, food and financial systems sectors – would help avoid a climate catastrophe.
“This report tells us, in cold scientific terms, what nature has been telling us through deadly floods, storms and raging fires all year long: we must stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and fast,” said Inger Andersen. Executive Director of UNEP. “We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time has passed. Only a fundamental transformation of our economies and societies can save us from an accelerating climate catastrophe.”
A wasted year
The report finds that despite a decision by all countries at the 2021 climate summit in Glasgow, UK (COP26) to strengthen Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and some updates from nations, progress has been woefully insufficient. The NDCs submitted this year absorb only 0.5 gigatonnes of CO2 Equivalent, less than 1 percent of projected global emissions in 2030.
This lack of progress has the world racing towards a temperature rise well above the Paris Agreement target of well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. Unconditional NDCs are estimated to give a 66 percent chance of limiting global warming to around 2.6°C over the century. For conditional NDCs, i.e. those that depend on external support, this value is reduced to 2.4 °C. Current policies alone would result in an increase of 2.8°C, highlighting the temperature impact of the promise-versus-action gap.
At best, full implementation of unconditional NDCs and additional net-zero emissions commitments suggest an increase of just 1.8°C, so there is hope. However, this scenario is currently not credible due to the discrepancy between current emissions, short-term NDC targets and long-term net-zero targets.
Unprecedented cuts required
To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world must reduce greenhouse gases by unprecedented levels over the next eight years.
It is estimated that unconditional and conditional NDCs will reduce global emissions by 5 and 10 percent respectively in 2030, compared to emissions based on current policies. Finding the most cost-effective way to keep global warming to 1.5°C requires reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared to current policies. The 2 degree target requires a 30 percent reduction.
Such massive cuts mean we need large-scale, rapid and systemic transformation. The report examines how part of this transformation can be implemented in key sectors and systems.
“It is a tall order, and some would say impossible, to reform the global economy and almost halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but we must try,” Andersen said. “Every fraction of a degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to species and ecosystems, and to each of us.”
“Even if we do not meet our 2030 targets, we must strive to get as close as possible to 1.5°C. That means laying the foundations for a net-zero future: one that will enable us to reduce temperature excesses and achieve many other social and environmental benefits, such as clean air, green jobs and universal access to energy.”
electricity, industry, transport and buildings
The report finds that the transformation towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in electricity, industry, transport and buildings is underway but needs to move much faster. Electricity supply is the most advanced as the cost of renewable electricity has fallen drastically. However, the pace of change must increase in parallel with measures to ensure a just transition and universal access to energy.
When it comes to buildings, the best available technologies must be applied quickly. For industry and transport, zero-emission technology must be further developed and used. To fuel the transformation, all sectors must avoid lock-in to new fossil-fuel-intensive infrastructure, advance and adopt zero-carbon technologies, and seek behavioral change.
Food systems can be reformed to make fast and permanent cuts
Areas of focus for food systems, which account for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions, include protecting natural ecosystems, demand-side dietary changes, improving food production at farm level, and decarbonizing food supply chains. Actions in these four areas can reduce projected food system emissions to about a third of current levels by 2050, as opposed to nearly doubling emissions if current practices continue.
Governments can facilitate the transition by reforming subsidies and tax systems. The private sector can reduce food losses and waste, use renewable energy and develop novel foods that reduce carbon emissions. Individual citizens can change their lifestyle to consume food for environmental sustainability and carbon reduction, which will also bring many health benefits.
The financial system must enable the transformation
A global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least US$4-6 trillion per year. This is a relatively small (1.5-2 percent) portion of total financial assets under management, but significant (20-28 percent) in terms of additional annual resources to be allocated.
Most financial actors, despite stated intentions, have shown limited action on climate action due to short-term interests, conflicting goals, and insufficient identification of climate risks.
Governments and major financial players must credibly steer in one direction: a transformation of the financial system and its structures and processes, involving governments, central banks, commercial banks, institutional investors and other financial players.
The report recommends six approaches to financial sector reform that must be implemented simultaneously:
- Make financial markets more efficient, also through taxonomies and transparency.
- Introduction of carbon prices such as taxes or cap-and-trade systems.
- Nudge financial behavior through government intervention, taxes, spending and regulations.
- Creating markets for low-carbon technologies by shifting financial flows, stimulating innovation and supporting standard setting.
- Mobilizing Central Banks: Central banks are increasingly interested in tackling the climate crisis, but more concrete action to regulate is needed.
- Establish “climate clubs” of cooperating countries, cross-border financial initiatives and just transformation partnerships that can change political norms and change the course of finance through credible financial commitment tools such as government guarantees.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and fosters partnerships in environmental protection by inspiring, informing and empowering nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without jeopardizing that of future generations.
For more information, please contact:
Keisha Rukikaire, Head of News & Media, UN Environment Programme