Wednesday, October 27, 2021

UNEP Emissions Gap: planet heading to 2.7C climate catastrophe without needed 2030 ambition at COP26

UNEP Emissions Gap 2021: Global emissions 1970-2020

The UN Environment Program published 2021 Emissions Gap - The Heat is on report analysing current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) revealing world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century. 

Commitments made for 2030 but not yet submitted in an updated NDC – only take an additional 7.5 per cent off predicted annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, compared to the previous round of commitments. Reductions of 30 per cent are needed to stay on the least-cost pathway for 2°C and 55 per cent for 1.5°C. 

Australia submitted an updated NDC in December 2020 with no change in 2030 targets, which will be the policy position at COP26, although Prime Minister Morrison & Energy Minister Taylor will try to spin a projection of a 30-35 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 'beating' our extremely low target. 

Australia also falling short on our fair share of climate finance.

On reducing Methane emissions the report says Australia is one of the worst emitters, a reason to sign on to The Global Methane Pledge

"Among the major emitting countries analysed, China, the Russian Federation, India and Australia show the greatest emission gaps for methane, with their NDC reductions relative to their 2°C reductions less than the global mean for both 2030 and 2050. Methane reductions in 1.5°C least-cost pathways are 44 per cent at the global level by 2030 compared with 2015, rather than 34 per cent for 2°C." 


As of 30 September 2021, 120 countries, representing just over half of global greenhouse gas emissions, had communicated new or updated NDCs. In addition, three G20 members have announced other new mitigation pledges for 2030.

To have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the world has eight years to take an additional 28 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) off annual emissions, over and above what is promised in the updated NDCs and other 2030 commitments. To put this number into perspective, carbon dioxide emissions alone are expected to reach 33 gigatonnes in 2021. When all other greenhouse gases are taken into account, annual emissions are close to 60 GtCO2e. So, to have a chance of reaching the 1.5°C target, we need to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions. For the 2°C target, the additional need is lower: a drop in annual emissions of 13 GtCO2e by 2030. - UNEP Media release

UNEP Emissions Gap Report: Per Capita GHG emissions of G20 countries

 “Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly.”

“The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species,” Andersen added. “Nations need to put in place the policies to meet their new commitments, and start implementing them within months. They need to make their net-zero pledges more concrete, ensuring these commitments are included in NDCs, and action brought forward. They then need to get the policies in place to back this raised ambition and, again, start implementing them urgently.

“It is also essential to deliver financial and technological support to developing nations – so that they can both adapt to the impacts of climate change already here and set out on a low-emissions growth path.”

Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 President, said the report underlined why countries need to show ambitious climate action at COP26: “As this report makes clear, if countries deliver on their 2030 NDCs and net zero commitments which have been announced by the end of September, we will be heading towards average global temperature rises of just above 2C. So there has been progress, but not enough,” he added.” That is why we especially need the biggest emitters, the G20 nations, to come forward with stronger commitments to 2030 if we are to keep 1.5c in reach over this critical decade.”

Yes, Australia. Where are you? We are a member of the G20 but failing in leadership. No update to 2030 target, no increase in climate finance or rejoining Green Climate Fund.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guteres asked, 

"As world leaders prepare for COP26, this report is another thundering wake-up call.  How many more do we need? Scientists are clear on the facts.  Now leaders need to be just as clear in their actions."

"They need to come to Glasgow with bold, time-bound, front-loaded plans to reach net-zero:  to decarbonize every sector — from power, to transport, farming and forestry; to phase-out coal — by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all others — and to end all coal investment, public and private, national and international; to end subsidies for fossil fuels and polluting industries; to put a price on carbon, and to channel that back to creating green jobs; and, obviously, to provide at least $100 billion each year to the developing world for climate finance." 

The clock is ticking.  The emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap.  But leaders can still make this a turning point to a greener future instead of a tipping point to climate catastrophe. 

The era of half measures and hollow promises must end.  The time for closing the leadership gap must begin in Glasgow.  - Statement by UN Secretary General. 


Methane emissions reduction a priority

One of the specific areas this report focussed on was methane emissions. As mentioned before, Australia is a major emitter of methane emissions, but is failing to take sufficient technical actions to reduce methane emissions across the three sectors: fossil fuels, agriculture, and waste.

The report warns that Methane emissions are the second largest contributor to global warming. The gas has a global warming potential over 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon; it also has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – only twelve years, compared to up to hundreds for CO2 – so cuts to methane will limit temperature increase faster than cuts to carbon dioxide.

The report argues that Low-cost technical measures alone could reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by around 20 per cent per year. Implementation of all measures, along with broader structural and behavioural measures, could reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by approximately 45 per cent. 

"The fossil fuel sector shows the largest all-cost (i.e. not restricting the analysis to low or negative net emission control costs) absolute 2030 abatement potential in analyses by three teams"

"The largest and most cost-effective abatement potentials within the fossil fuel sector for 2030 are to prevent all venting of associated gas during oil and gas extraction (including from inefficient flaring), to install leak detection and repair programmes for natural gas infrastructure and to utilize ventilation air methane oxidation technology in coal mines." says the report.

The report also details abatement measures for waste and in agriculture and livestock management (including in  feed substitutes and methane inhibitors The report also highlights that substantial mitigation of livestock-related methane could be achieved through widespread changes in human dietary choices, "possibly reaching 30 Mt/year (~0.9 GtCO 2 e/year using GWP100) by 2050, with additional CO 2 and N 2 O reductions (Willett et al. 2019; UNEP and CCAC 2021)."

Australia is so far refusing to sign the Global methane pledge that was started on 17 September at the Major Economies Forum. Read more at 17 September Blog (with updates): Global Methane Pledge aims for 30 percent methane emissions cut from 2020 levels by 2030

Covid19 pandemic and green recovery

The report finds that the opportunity to use COVID-19 fiscal rescue and recovery spending to stimulate the economy while backing climate action has been missed in most countries. 

For Australia we had Prime Minister Morrison appointing a fossil fuel executive to a recovery commission which recomended a 'Gas led recovery' - more money to finance gas pipelines and gas exploration opening up new gas basins, particularly the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory.

The pandemic led to a drop in global CO2 emissions of 5.4 per cent in 2020. However, CO2 and non-CO2 emissions in 2021 are expected to rise again to a level only slightly lower than the record high in 2019. The world has missed an opportunity to recover on a different more sustainable path.

Only around 20 per cent of total recovery investments up to May 2021 are likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of this spending, almost 90 per cent is accounted for by six G20 members and one permanent guest.

UNEP Emissions Gap 2021 - Global recovery spending - Low carbon vs high carbon spending


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