By Sharon Atieno

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) continue to rise, despite scientific warnings and political commitments hence, deeper and faster cuts required, a recently released United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report finds.

“There is no sign of GHG emissions peaking in the next few years; every year of postponed peaking means that deeper and faster cuts will be required,” says the 2019 UNEP Emissions Gap Report.

It is estimated that by 2030, emissions would need to be 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2018 to put the world on the least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to below 2˚C and 1.5°C respectively.

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 per cent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director. “This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that going beyond 1.5°C will increase the frequency and intensity of climate impacts, such as the heatwaves and storms witnessed across the globe in the last few years.

G20 members account for around 78 percent of global GHG emissions (including land use), thus, greatly determine global emission trends and the extent to which the 2030 emissions gap will be closed.

The report, however finds that though they are on track collectively to meet their 2020 Cancun pledges, several individual G20 members (Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, the United States of America) are currently projected to miss theirs or will not achieve them with great certainty.

In addition, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have not made 2020 pledges and pledges from several countries that meet their targets are rather unambitious.

On the progress of G20 economies towards their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), only six members are projected to meet their unconditional NDC targets with current policies.

The report further notes that more countries are setting net zero targets domestically. Countries and major subnational economies, such as the region of California and major cities worldwide are among those that have committed to net zero emissions by 2050.

However, only a few long-term strategies submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have so far committed to a timeline for net zero emissions, none of which are from a G20 member.

The report recommends that enhanced action by G20 members will be essential for the global mitigation effort, with special attention to seven members- Argentina, Brazil, China, the EU, India, Japan and the United States of America- who accounted for 56 percent of global GHG emissions in 2017.

It also recommends that countries should strengthen their NDCs now, given that the time lag between policy decisions and associated emission reductions will render the 2025 timeline too late to close the large 2030 emissions gap.

Therefore, the 2019 Emissions Gap Report finds that countries must increase their NDC ambitions threefold to achieve the well below 2°C goal and more than fivefold to achieve the 1.5°C goal.

“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger Nationally Determined Contributions to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” added Andersen. “If we don’t do this, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”

In addition, major societal and economic transformation need to take place in the next decade to make up for the inaction of the past, including rapid decarbonization of the energy, building and transport sectors, the report says.

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