The UN Emissions Gap report said that net-zero commitments could be the last hope to limit expected temperature rises.
A new UN report published ahead of COP26 has warned that current national climate commitments put the world on track for a temperature increase of at least 2.7 degrees Celsius this century, which could have catastrophic implications for the climate.
The Emissions Gap 2021 report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) published yesterday (26 October) found that the latest nationally determined contributions (NDCs) only take 7.5pc off predicted 2030 global emissions.
This figure is significantly short of the 55pc reduction needed to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target laid out in the Paris Agreement.
The NDCs are at the heart of the functioning of the Paris Agreement, where signatory countries commit to their own efforts to reduce national emissions and help tackle the climate crisis.
“Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions. The clock is ticking loudly.”
The report comes just ahead of COP26, or the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the latest round of global climate talks to be held in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November.
Despite inadequate commitments in the latest NDCs, the UN report stresses that net-zero pledges made by several nations, including the European Union and 49 other countries, could go a long way to limiting temperature rises – to an estimated to 2.2 degrees Celsius if plans are robust and implemented fully.
However, it warned that many current net-zero pledges are “vague” and “inconsistent with most 2030 NDCs”.
“As this report makes clear, if countries deliver on their 2030 NDCs and net-zero commitments, we will be heading towards average global temperature rises of just above 2 degrees Celsius,” said incoming COP26 president Alok Sharma. “So there has been progress, but not enough.”
Sharma added that big emitters, such as the G20 nations, need to make stronger 2030 commitments if we are to keep to the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.
“The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species,” Andersen added. “Nations need to put in place the policies to meet their new commitments, and start implementing them within months.
“It is also essential to deliver financial and technological support to developing nations – so that they can both adapt to the impacts of climate change already here and set out on a low-emissions growth path.”
The report noted that the Covid-19 pandemic led to a 5.4pc decrease in global CO2 emissions last year, but that emissions are expected to rise again in 2021 to almost as high as the record-setting levels seen in 2019 before the pandemic hit.
It found that the opportunity to use Covid-19 financial rescue and recovery spending to stimulate economies while also backing climate action has been missed in most countries.
Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.