By Christabel Arina
A new report released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shows that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose again during 2017 after a three year period of stabilization, highlighting the imperative for countries to deliver on the historic Paris Agreement to keep global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The emission gap report says that economic growth is responsible for the emissions while national efforts to cut carbon have faltered.
Humanity is falling further behind in the race against climate change with the gap between greenhouse emissions and levels needed to achieve the Paris climate treaty temperature goals continuing to widen, the UN said.
The report comes just days before the key UN climate conference known as COP 24 kick off in Katowice, Poland with the urgency urging nations to triple their efforts to tackle harmful emissions.
The UNEP report also comes hot on the heels of the watershed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on global warming, released in October, which cautioned that emissions had to stop rising now, in order to keep temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and reduce the risks for the well-being of the planet and its people.
“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya.
“The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.” She added.
Heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere is largely responsible for rising global temperatures, according to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence. UNEP’s 2018 report indicated that global emissions have reached historic levels.
Total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including from land-use change, reached a record high of 53.5 Gigatons (Gt) in 2017, an increase of 0.7 Gt compared with 2016.
“In contrast, global GHG emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25 percent and 55 percent lower than in 2017 to put the world on a least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees respectively,” said the report.
What’s worse, the report notes that there is no sign of reversal of this trend and that only 57 countries (representing 60 percent of global emissions) are on track to bridge their “emissions gap” – meaning “the gap between where we are likely to be and where we need to be.”
The authors of the report stated that nations would need to triple their efforts on climate action without further delay, in order to meet the two-degree-rise limit by mid-century.
The report outlines concrete ways that Governments should consider to bridge their emissions gap, including through innovative technology, fiscal policy, non-state and subnational action, and more.
“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.
“Thankfully, the potential of using fiscal policy as an incentive is increasingly recognized, with 51 carbon pricing initiatives now in place or scheduled, covering roughly 15 percent of global emissions. If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10 percent by 2030. Setting the right carbon price is also essential. At US $70 per ton of CO2, emission reductions of up to 40 percent are possible in some countries.”
The ninth Emissions Gap Report has been prepared by an international team of leading scientists, assessing all available information, including that published in the context of the IPCC Special Report, as well as in other recent scientific studies.