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UN releases emissions gap report – E3G responds

  • The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has today released its annual Emissions Gap report.

  • It finds there is a 28 billion tonne greenhouse gas emissions gap between where countries’ current climate targets for 2030 are projected to lead us by the end of the decade, and where global emissions would need to be in 2030 for a good chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

  • This complements yesterday’s NDC Synthesis Report from the UNFCCC, which found that as a result of the latest round of enhancements to 2030 climate targets, projected 2030 emissions are set to be 15.9% higher than 2010 levels (assuming full implementation of NDCs including their conditional elements). In contrast, the IPCC has found that projected 2030 emissions would need to be 45% lower than 2010 levels to be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Just days before the major UN COP26 climate summit opens, the UNEP Emissions Gap Report shows that new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), setting climate targets for 2030, are not on track to limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

The UNEP report compares the emissions trajectory needed to meet the Paris Agreement against the projected emissions resulting from countries latest round of 2030 NDCs.

Assuming the full implementation of countries’ current unconditional NDCs, the report finds that by 2030, annual emissions need to be 28 GtCO2e (range: 25–30 GtCO2e) lower for a 66% chance of keeping global warming limited to 1.5°C. If conditional NDCs are also considered, the gap is about 25 GtCO2e.

As of 30 September 2021, 120 countries had communicated new or updated NDCs; a further three had announced some form of new climate action in 2030. Together these only slightly narrow the gap between where emissions should be in 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement goals and where pledges will bring them.

The report finds that, compared to countries’ previous unconditional 2030 climate targets, their new pledges for 2030 reduce projected 2030 emissions by only 7.5 per cent. But 2030 NDCs submitted needed to take 55 per cent off projected 2030 emissions to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

COP26 will need to respond by agreeing a way forward in the 2020s to ensure that this 28 billion tonne emissions gap can be closed. This will require a new consensus at Glasgow for all countries to agree to enhance their 2030 climate targets well before the Paris Agreement’s the conclusion of the Global Stocktake – which will measure progress towards meeting the treaty’s goals – in 2023.

Tom Evans, climate diplomacy expert at E3G, said:

“The aim of COP26 is to ‘keep 1.5°C alive’ but this report shows that window is closing fast. It yet again confirms what we already knew: there is a stark and worrying gap between where countries’ climate targets get us, and where we need to be to meet the Paris Agreement stretch goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

To keep that hope alive, leaders at Glasgow must agree a way forward to accelerate efforts to reduce emissions this decade – committing to enhance their 2030 climate targets again by 2023 at the latest – or else a 1.5°C world may slip out of reach.

We also urgently need new 2030 climate targets committed from all countries that have yet to do so. The G20 group of major emitters all promised to enhance their targets at July’s climate Ministerial. China, India and Saudi Arabia must now fulfil this promise.”

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