Nations are called upon to significantly cut emissions by 28% to uphold the 2-degree Celsius limit and by 42% to attain the more ambitious 1.5-degree Celsius target.
According to a recent United Nations report named “Broken Record” from the United Nations Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2023, a temperature rise of approximately 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is imminent by the end of the century. This is even with the complete implementation of nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) by countries to mitigate the emission of planet-warming gases.
As the report is unveiled in anticipation of the 28th session of the annual UN climate talks, COP28 in Dubai, it underscores the necessity for countries to reduce emissions by 28% to cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius and by 42% to achieve the more ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius target. Notably, the report reveals a 1.2% increase in global emissions during the period of 2021-2022.
The report states, “Full implementation of measures outlined in unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) would guide the world towards limiting the temperature rise to 2.9 degrees Celsius. Should conditional NDCs be fully enacted, temperatures would remain below 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
In alignment with the Paris Agreement, nations committed to keeping the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius, with an aspiration to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The report highlights positive strides in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by countries since the adoption of the Paris Agreement. In its 2016 edition, the report initially forecasted a potential warming of up to 3.4 degrees Celsius in a business-as-usual scenario.
However, despite this progress, the United Nations underscores that the world remains significantly distant from attaining the crucial objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Achieving this target is imperative to prevent extreme, destructive, and likely irreversible impacts of climate change, as emphasized by the UN.
Even with just a 1.1-degree increase in global warming, the world is already confronting unprecedented challenges, including soaring temperatures, floods, wildfires, cyclones, and droughts.
Until the onset of October, there were 86 days this year when temperatures surpassed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. September set a record for the highest temperatures ever recorded, with global averages reaching 1.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Antònio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, emphasized, “Attaining the 1.5-degree limit is still within our grasp. However, it necessitates addressing the root cause of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. This demands a transition to renewable energy that is not only sustainable but also fair and equitable.”
The report underscores the imperative for nations to undertake comprehensive, low-carbon development transformations across their economies, with a particular focus on transitioning to sustainable energy sources.
As per the report’s findings, the extraction of coal, oil, and gas throughout their lifecycle, encompassing planned mining and drilling projects, would lead to emissions surpassing three-and-a-half times the available carbon budget required to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, it was highlighted that these emissions would nearly exhaust the entire budget allocated for a 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase.
In the terminology of climate science, the carbon budget signifies the permissible quantity of greenhouse gases that can be emitted to attain a specific level of global warming—in this case, 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The report stresses that developed countries have already consumed over 80 percent of the global carbon budget, leaving scarce carbon space for countries like India in the future.
Countries with greater capacity and responsibility for emissions, particularly those within the G20 characterized by high-income and high-emission profiles, must adopt more ambitious and expeditious measures. Additionally, they ought to extend financial and technical support to developing nations. Recognizing that low- and middle-income countries already contribute to more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it becomes imperative to prioritize low-emission growth to meet development needs. This necessitates addressing energy demand patterns and prioritizing clean energy supply chains.
Harjeet Singh, the head of global political strategy at the New Delhi-based Climate Action Network International, expressed apprehension, highlighting the precarious global position.
“The stark reality is that the projected emissions resulting from the extraction of coal, oil, and gas are on track to exceed the carbon budget needed to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by more than three-and-a-half times,” he underscored.