By Jaya Ramachandran
Ahead of the forthcoming meeting of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known by the acronym COP 22, beginning on November 7 in Marrakech. Morocco, UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap report said the world must cut a further 25% from predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions, “to meet the stronger, and safer, target of 1.5 degrees Celsius” global temperature rise.
The report released in London on November 3 warned that world is still heading for temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius this century, even with the pledges made in December 2015 by States Parties to the UNFCCC. UNEP finds that 2030 emissions are expected to reach 54 to 56 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The projected level needed to keep global warming from surpassing 2 degrees Celsius this century is 42 gigatonnes.
Scientists around the world agree that limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius this century (compared to pre-industrial levels) would reduce the probability of severe storms, longer droughts, rising sea levels and other devastating climate-related events. However, they caution that even a lower target of 1.5 degrees Celsium will reduce rather than eliminate impacts.
Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said, while the entry into force of the Paris Agreement sends a strong message, the real work is starting only now. “Countries worldwide need to adopt substantially more stringent emission reduction schemes. If they want to be serious about meeting the target of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, they for instance cannot allow any new coal power plant to be built.”
Pricing carbon, he added, is key to incentivize clean innovation, punish CO2 intensive fuels, and in the same time generate revenues that governments urgently need for infrastructure improvements. “The science is clear: delaying action would only raise costs. It would do so in terms of Dollars and Euros and Yuan – and even more importantly in terms of human suffering.”
Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) reiterated its concern that without greater ambition and more urgency the Paris Agreement will fail to deliver the scale of fair and drastic action needed to prevent dangerous climate change.
FoEI said 197 countries have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to hold the global temperature increase to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsium above pre-industrial levels.’’ However, it warned that even if countries stick to commitments made so far, “we can expect at least 3.5 degrees Celsius of warming”.
“After 24 years of negotiations we are hurtling towards a 3.5 degree world, which will be catastrophic for millions across the world,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International. “Despite all the science-based evidence, rich countries are failing to do their fair share of emissions reductions as well as provide much-needed finance to drive energy transformation in developing countries. The clock is ticking, we have almost no time left to ensure the peoples of Africa are not sacrificed to increasing temperatures.”
“There are 1.2 billion people living with no access to electricity and over half of those people are in Africa,” said Geoffrey Kamese, Senior Programme Officer, Friends of the Earth Uganda / NAPE “Africa-led and people-centred initiatives – such as the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative – must be given support to work for people. However, we’re only seeing more of the same – old and indeed new dirty energy projects – oil, coal, gas and big dams, fracking, even tar sands – continue to devastate communities.
Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UNEP, said in a new release that while the Paris Agreement and the recent Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are steps in the right direction, the strong commitments are nevertheless still not enough.
“If we don’t start taking additional action now, beginning with the upcoming climate meeting in Marrakech, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy. The growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver,” he declared.
That stark warning echoed his call from the report’s foreword, where he said: “None of this will be the result of bad weather. It will be the result of bad choices by governments, private sector and individual citizens. Because there are choices […] The science shows that we need to move much faster.”
2015 was the hottest year ever recorded and the first six months of 2016 have thus far broken all prior records. Yet the report finds that emissions continue to increase.
In October, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol agreed to slash the use of HFCs. According to preliminary studies, this could lead to a cut in 0.5 degress Celsium if fully implemented, although significant reductions will not be realized until 2025. Collectively, members of the G20 are on track to meet their Cancun Agreements for 2020, but these pledges fall short of a realistic starting point that would align targets with the Paris Agreement, UNEP report said.
But it finds that through technology and opportunity assessments, there are a number of ways for States and non-State actors to implement further cuts that would make the goals achievable, including energy efficiency acceleration and crossover with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
For example, non-State actors, including those in the private sector, cities, and citizen groups, can help to reduce several gigatonnes by 2030 in areas such as agriculture and transport, according to the report.
Energy efficiency is another opportunity; a 6 per cent increase in investments last year (a total of $221 billion) in the industry indicates that such action is already happening, it adds.
Moreover, studies have shown that an investment of $20 to $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide would lead to reductions (in tonnes) of 5.9 for buildings, 4.1 for industry, and 2.1 for transport by 2030.
The 1 Gigaton Coalition, created by UNEP with the support of the Government of Norway in 2014, recently found that implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in developing countries from 2005 to 2015 will lead to a half gigatonne reduction in emissions by 2020. This includes actions taken by countries that have not made formal Cancun pledges.
Climate action is integral to the SDGs, as the impacts of severe climate-related events undermine our ability to deliver on the promises made by 2030. Failure to meet these challenges will, of course, have greater-yet implications beyond that date.