Current climate pledges could still see Earth warming up to ‘catastrophic’ 2.9C: UN report

The greenhouse gas reduction pledges adopted by the countries are insufficient to attain the pre-industrial level global temperatures, the United Nations said in its report on Monday (Nov 19).

The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) annual Emissions Gap report said that based on existing policies and emissions-cutting efforts, the planet’s temperature could still go up to a catastrophic 2.9 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The report, which was released just ahead of crucial COP28 climate talks, warns that nations’ decarbonisation plans would still see the planet heat between 2.5C and 2.9C by this century.

It also noted that 2023 would be the hottest in human history, adding that “the world is witnessing a disturbing acceleration in the number, speed and scale of broken climate records”.

“Due to the failure to stringently reduce emissions in high-income and high-emitting countries (which bear the greatest responsibility for past emissions) and to limit emissions growth in low- and middle-income countries (which account for the majority of current emissions), unprecedented action is now needed by all countries,” the report said.

World continues to pump record levels of emissions 

It said that the world continues to pump record levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with emissions up 1.2 per cent from 2021 to 2022, thanks to burning of fossil fuels and industrial processes.

UNEP chief Inger Andersen urged the G20 nations – the world’s wealthiest economies responsible for around 80 per cent of emissions –to lead on reductions, but noted some were in “snooze mode”.

“It is absolutely critical that the G-20 step up,” she said, according to AFP news agency.

The UNEP report stated that Paris Agreement goals can still be fulfilled if countries adopt strong mitigation measures this decade to narrow the emissions gap.

Silver lining 

Under the 2015 deal, countries had agreed to limit global warming at “well below” 2 degrees C above pre-industrial times – with a safer limit of 1.5 degrees C if possible.

However till this year, countries have already emitted nearly 1.2 degrees C of global heating, the impact of which could be seen across the planet, the report said.

UNEP said temperatures have gone above 1.5 deg C for more than 80 days already in 2023, although the Paris warming thresholds will be measured as an average over several decades.

However, UNEP chief expressed optimism in making progress in the upcoming COP28 summit on Nov 30 in Dubai, despite the fissures caused by the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflict.

“Countries and delegations understand that, irrespective of these deep divisions that do exist and that are undeniable, the environment doesn’t wait and climate most certainly will not,” she said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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