Annual 7% decrease in emissions needed for next decade

If we are to reach global climate goals ambition must climb at least five-fold, the new Emissions Gap Report shows. Currently we are heading for a temperature rise of 3.2 °C.

November 26, 2019

Global greenhouse gas emissions should fall over 7 per cent each year from 2020 to 2030 to get on track to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and minimize climate disruption to lives, the planet and economies, the new Emissions Gap Report says today.

The Emissions Gap Report, launched today, shows that collective ambition must increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts, needed to hit the most-ambitious temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

Each year, the UN Environment flagship report assesses the gap between anticipated emissions in 2030 and levels consistent with the 1.5°C and 2°C targets of the Paris Agreement.

The report is coordinated by UNEP DTU Partnership, and Director John Christensen, along with several other UNEP DTU Partnership experts, are among the report’s main authors.

“In order to stay in line with the Paris aspirational goal of no more than 1.5 degree warming at the end of the century, countries need globally to more than halve the GHG emissions by 2030,” he says of the findings in the report.

To deliver on these cuts, the levels of ambition in the NDCs must increase at least fivefold for the 1.5°C goal and triple for the 2°C goal.

Download the 2019 Emissions Gap Report here.

Download the Executive Summary here.

Three main points

The 2019 Emissions Gap Report presents the latest science on global climate action and emissions, and points to three main point:

Firstly ambition must climb at least fivefold over current levels to meet Paris Agreement 1.5°C goal, and secondly, the world is heading for a temperature rise of 3.2°C on current unconditional pledges.

The third point is a more positive one. We have the solutions we need to reach the goal. Technologies and policies to cut emissions drastically exist, but the transformations must begin now.

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over seven per cent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “The size of these annual cuts may seem shocking. They may also seem impossible, at least for next year. But we have to try.”

A “lost decade” of climate action

Earlier this year a pre-release chapter from the 2019 Emissions Gap report focusing on the G20 nations, and a summary marking the ten-year anniversary of the gap reports, was published.

One of the key findings, looking at a decade of emissions gap analysis and reports, was unfortunately quite bleak.

The world seems to have spent the last decade doing the exact opposite of what it should. Emissions are now almost exactly what early gap reports projected they would be in 2020, if the world did nothing to change its polluting growth models.

“When looking back at the 10 years we have prepared the Emissions Gap Report, it is very disturbing that in spite of the many warnings, global emissions have continued to increase and do not seem to be likely to peak anytime soon,” says John Christensen, one of two UNEP DTU Partnership authors of the summary.

Read more about the “lost decade” of climate action here.

Focus on G20 nations

G20 nations collectively account for at least 75 per cent of all emissions, but seven of them do not yet have sufficient policies in place to achieve their current NDCs, let alone strategies for transformative climate commitments at the breadth and scale necessary, the report says in both the pre-released G20 chapter and the newly released full report.

However, the report also points to key areas where G20 nations can rapidly step up action when they submit their next round of NDCs in 2020. It states that G20 nations can reach the ambition levels required by taking advantage of technological and economic developments to decarbonize their economies, maximizing the synergies between climate action and development objectives, and building on a surge of climate action commitments by non-state actors, such as cities and businesses.

Read more about the G20 pre-released chapter here.

Sectors and solutions – the positive

As it does each year, the report focuses on the potential of selected sectors to deliver emissions cuts. This year it looks at the energy transition and the potential of efficiency in the use of materials, which can go a long way to closing the emissions gap.

“The reductions required can only be achieved, if the energy sector globally is gradually transformed towards increased electrification, including of major part of the transport sector, supplied by renewable energy sources. The good news is that since wind and solar in most places have become the cheapest source of electricity, the main challenges will be around designing and implementing an integrated, decentralised power system,” John Christensen says.

However, success will require great effort and commitment from every nation on the planet. Major societal and economic transformations need to take place in the next decade to make up for the inaction of the past, the 2019 Emissions Gap Report warns.