Global pledges only halfway to meeting emissions target, says UN

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A new study by the United Nations (UN) ahead of this month’s climate talks in Paris has found that the world is on course to achieve just half of the reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) required in order to keep the global temperature increase below 2c by 2050.

Based on current pledges – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – global emissions will reach between 53 to 58 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025, which is above the recommended level of 48 GT laid out in the UN Environment Programme (Unep).

By 2030, current emission pledges will mean the world emits between 54 to 59 GT, which also exceeds the recommended 42 GT outlined by Unep. Leading scientists agree that such a rate of emissions will likely mean a 2c increase in average global temperatures by 2050, which will exceed the agreed upper threshold considered ‘safe’.

Nobody can be sure, but leading environmentalists believe that a rise of above 2c will trigger catastrophic climate change, leading to more floods, droughts, famines, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

The current INDCs pledged by governments will serve to lower global emissions by 11 GT by 2030, but the UN says that a further 12 GT reduction is required on top of that. As things stand, there is a two-thirds chance of global temperatures exceeding 2c by 2050.

The Unep report makes similar claims to those outlined in an earlier study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which in October issued a World Energy Outlook that called for more stringent climate pledges from the 150 countries that account for 90% of global activity.

The IEA’s recommendations would see emission growth slow significantly, perhaps not at the rate required to meet the advice of leading scientists, but certainly robust enough to lessen the chances of severe climate change.

The pledges made by governments at the previous UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009 run out in 2020, by which date these ‘new and improved’ measures are due to take effect.

However, the consensus remains that even these INDCs will fall short of action recommended by scientists, but there is hope that once the summit gets underway in Paris world leaders can be convinced to increase their binding targets, pledging greater use of renewable energy, further limits on fossil fuel use and campaigns to deliver more energy efficiency in some of the world’s most industrialized nations.