• Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

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UN says global carbon emissions set to rise 16 per cent by 2030

Coal power plant

A coal-fired power plant in Hammerstadt, Germany

Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images

A UN analysis today revealed a bleak upward trajectory for global carbon dioxide emissions, despite new CO2-curbing plans by scores of countries, including major emitters such as the US and the European Union’s 27 member states.

Global emissions will rise 16 per cent by 2030 on 2010 levels under governments’ plans put forward since the start of 2020, according to the synthesis report from UN Climate Change. That puts the world ruinously off track for the 45 per cent cut that climate scientists say is needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding global warming to 1.5°C.

“This report is really showing us sobering numbers,” says Patricia Espinosa at UN Climate Change. “But it is also still showing the progress to the 1.5°C goal is possible. The latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report says there is still this window open. It’s a very, very small window, that is true. The 1.5°C goal is, in my view, alive.”

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There are some reasons to be hopeful. One is that the report doesn’t count political announcements that haven’t yet been translated into official plans submitted to the UN, such as China’s promise to reach an emissions peak before 2030 after which they will drop. A second is that the 16 per cent increase ignores pledges in developing countries’ plans that are conditional on greater finance or support from developed countries. Thirdly, looking at the 113 parties to the Paris Agreement that did put forward new plans, their emissions will decrease 12 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels.

Nonetheless, Jennifer Morgan at Greenpeace International said: “The report today does not paint a hopeful picture of progress.” In a statement, she continued: “Governments are letting vested interests call the climate shots, rather than serving the global community.”

Next Monday will mark an important stepping stone towards COP26. UN secretary general António Guterres is gathering a select group of heads of state, including Boris Johnson of the UK and Joe Biden of the US, in a bid to elicit stronger ambition for the summit.

Espinosa, referring to today’s UN synthesis analysis, says: “I certainly hope this report is going to be one element for reflection for leaders when they meet on Monday. It shows everyone needs to increase ambition in all areas.”

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