Alarming Growth of Climate Emissions Says UNEP, But No Reason to Write Off 2°C Target Yet
Washington, DC – Global greenhouse gas emissions are moving in the wrong direction to meet the global goal of stabilizing temperatures at or below 2°C by the end of the century, according to the third edition of UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report developed by 55 scientists from 22 countries. According to the report released today, if all countries stick to the voluntary pledges they have already made, by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions will be at least 8 billion tons higher per year than the maximum allowed to meet the 2°C target.
“The world has broken the speed limit in regards to CO2 emissions and [instead of slowing down] has really put its foot down on the [gas] pedal,” according to UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, speaking at the report launch. However, despite these findings “it is still highly feasible for the world to stay within a 2°C scenario,” Steiner added According to the Emissions Gap report there are potential reductions available across seven economic sectors capable of producing 17 billion tons of CO2-equivalent reductions by 2020, more than enough to fill the emissions gap.
In one example, the report estimates that if every country institutes energy saving appliance standards, one billion tons of CO2-equivalent emissions could be reduced by 2020.
“This report provides a sobering picture of the challenge that lies ahead,” stated Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “And it also shows that there is still hope to avoid the worst climate impacts and points a path forward for producing fast emission reductions.”
Significant cuts in CO2 emissions are essential to stabilize long-term temperatures, but in the near-term, aggressively addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs)—black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs—can provide rapid climate, health, and food security benefits, particularly in the critical vulnerable regions that are already suffering some of the worst impacts of climate change.
Cutting SLCPs can reduce the rate of global warming in half for the next several decades, cut the rate of warming over the elevated regions of the Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau by at least half, and the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds over the next 30 years, while saving millions of lives per year and preventing billions of dollars in crop losses.
Rapid reductions in SLCP emissions can be achieved utilizing existing technologies, policies and institutions. For black carbon and methane, this includes, increasing use of diesel particulate filters, replacing traditional cookstoves with clean modern equivalents and fuels, and controlling emissions from oil and gas production and transportation. For HFCs, reductions can be best achieved through a global phase-down under the Montreal Protocol, a strategy detailed in a recent article.
“Combining fast-action strategies to reduce SLCPs with aggress but still feasible reductions in CO2 can slow accelerating climate impacts in the near-term, and give the world the best chance of maintaining global temperature at or below 2°C above preindustrial levels through the end of the century,” Zaelke added.
IGSD’s article Strengthening Ambition for Climate Mitigation: The Role of the Montreal Protocol in Reducing Short-lived Climate Pollutants, Review of European Community & International Environmental Law 21:231-242 (November 2012)
IGSD’s Primer on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants is here.
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