Published on 01 December 2018


States must triple efforts to keep global warming under 2°C

It is extremely unlikely that global warming will be kept under 2°C if the gap between the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions and the level required does not close by 2030.  However, only 57 countries are set to reach peak emissions by this deadline, warns a new report from the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program).

The recent fires in California, attributed to global warming, have killed at least 85 people.
Josh Edelson AFP

After two years of stability, global CO2 emissions unexpectedly increased in 2017, reaching a record high. Moreover, there is no sign of stopping in the near future. Even if it is still possible to keep global warming under the fateful threshold of 2°C, time is running out. Quickly.

In their annual “Emissions Gap Report”, which assess current mitigation efforts and the ambitions states have presented to close the emissions gap, UNEP experts warn that states around the world will have to triple their efforts by 2030 to maintain warming below 2°C. Efforts would have to increase fivefold to limit warming to 1.5°C.

"If the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation," said Joyce Musca, UNEP Deputy Executive Director.  She added, “we're feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach".

Only 57 countries on target for 2030

According to the report's predictions, only 57 countries, which account for 60% of global emissions, will have reached their peak by 2030. Nevertheless, they insist that the battle is not yet lost. Non-state actors, such as cities, regions, companies, investors, and civil society, represent considerable potential for reducing emissions by as much as 19 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

This potential is all the more important if accompanied by appropriate tax policies. “When governments embrace fiscal policy measures to subsidize low-emission alternatives and tax fossil fuels, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions,” said Jian Liu, UN Environment’s Chief Scientist. This sheds light on the recent carbon tax debates following the “yellow vest” protests in France.

Untaxed fossil fuel emissions

Today, 50% of global fossil fuel emissions are not subject to carbon pricing and only 10% of emissions are taxed at a level consistent with the 2°C objectives, or a carbon price between €34 and €68 per tonne. "There is progress but it is still too slow to achieve the Paris Agreement objectives," said Kurt Van Dender of the OECD.

According to the report's conclusions, if current trends continue, we are headed for a global warming of more than 3.2°C by the end of the century. Attention has now turned to Poland, where the COP24 will be held on 2 December. This will be an opportunity for states to effectively address their climate ambitions and to show that they truly understand the magnitude of the challenge.

Concepcion Alvarez, @conce1

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