Climate protection plans are far from enough

various icons for climate protection and reduction of CO2 emissions

To meet the 1.5 degree target, the world must reduce its emissions by 42 percent by 2030. But climate policy has so far taken too few measures to achieve this. © Galeanu Mihai / iStock

The climate crisis is getting worse, but far too little is being done in climate protection, as a current UN report shows in the run-up to the upcoming world climate summit. There is a huge gap between the measures required to reduce greenhouse gases and limit global warming and the measures governments have promised. Due to this “emissions gap”, current climate policy only achieves a limitation of global warming to three degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

In the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, the 197 signatory states decided to limit global warming to a long-term average of 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial values, but to a maximum of two degrees. Since then, they have committed themselves to taking appropriate measures in national plans (NDC) to the UN Climate Secretariat (UNFCC). 149 countries have since updated and tightened these NDCs. However, these plans are not yet sufficient to achieve global climate protection goals, as a current report from the UN Environment Program UNEP, in which numerous climate scientists contributed, shows.

Accordingly, the current climate policy measures that have already been implemented are only sufficient to limit global warming this century to three degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. And there is also a lack of ambition: even if all the other climate protection measures promised in the NDCs were implemented, it would probably only be enough to limit warming to 2.5 degrees, according to the UNEP report. If the timetables for achieving net zero emissions contained in the national voluntary commitments are taken into account, global warming could at least be limited to two degrees. But the UN does not currently rate these promises as credible because none of the G20 countries are reducing their emissions at a pace that meets their net zero targets. The UN Climate Secretariat (UNFCC) drew a similarly sobering conclusion a few days ago.

Sad records

At the same time, the world is in the midst of a climate crisis that is intensifying in disturbing ways, the United Nations reports. In 2023, our planet was already more than 1.5 degrees hotter on 86 days than before industrialization. But not only the temperatures, but also the proportion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and greenhouse gas emissions are at a global record high, according to the report. The CO2 concentration in the earth's atmosphere rose to 417.9 ppm (parts per million air molecules) in 2022; before industrialization it was 280 ppm. And global emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide reached a new all-time high of 57.4 billion tons of CO2 equivalents last year.

Compared to 2021, global emissions rose by 1.2 percent, more than in the last decade. Greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 increased particularly sharply in Indonesia at 10.0 percent and in India at 5.1 percent compared to the previous year. In the EU, however, emissions fell slightly by 0.8 percent, according to the UNEP report. China currently has the largest share of all emissions at 30 percent, followed by the USA and the EU with a combined 18 percent. Historically, however, the USA and the EU have emitted significantly more greenhouse gases than China since 1850. Overall, the climate footprint of the rich is particularly bad, regardless of where they live: currently the richest ten percent of people together cause almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Real climate change is still a long way off

“Even though there are now announcements for 80 percent of global emissions that they will be reduced to net zero at some point, the emissions themselves continue to increase, and the trend reversal is still a long time coming,” says co-author William Lamb from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin. A real global climate change has not yet been achieved. The world has not yet managed to reduce emissions sufficiently.

The United Nations published its report on the “Emissions Gap” around a week before the COP28 world climate summit starting in Dubai on November 30, 2023, where politicians will negotiate further climate protection. “We know that it is still possible to achieve the 1.5 degree limit,” said UN Secretary-General Antònio Guterres. However, this requires a real move away from fossil fuels and a transition to renewable energy. In order to close the emissions gap and still be able to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must significantly strengthen their plans and real measures for climate protection this decade and implement them more quickly, warns the United Nations. For the 1.5 degree target, the world would have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent by 2030, and for the two degree target by 28 percent.

Source: UN Environment Program (UNEP), Emissions Gap Report 2023, doi: 10.59117/20.500.11822/43922s

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