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UNEP: Climate pledges an ‘historic step’ towards decarbonisation, but emissions gap remains

emissions gap

Creative Commons: 2013

The “unprecedented commitment” shown by nations in their UN climate pledges will reduce emissions significantly over the next 15 years, according to a new report out today from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Echoing the UNFCCC’s own findings, the UNEP report shows that while the current pledges go some way to closing the “emissions gap”, more action is needed. Existing policies will already reduce emissions by 5Gt on current projections, while national submissions ahead of the UN climate talks will save another 4-6Gt, according to UNEP.

However, an additional 12Gt of savings will be needed if the world is to stay within the internationally agreed danger threshold of 2C of warming, much less the 1.5C called for by vulnerable nations.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said:

The current INDCs, combined with policies over the last few years, present a real increase in ambition levels and demonstrate an unprecedented commitment and engagement by member states in tackling this major global challenge.

The INDCs assessed in this Emissions Gap report signal a breakthrough in terms of international efforts to bend the curve of future emissions. While in themselves not sufficient to limit global temperature rise to the recommended level of 2C this century, they represent a historic step in the direction of decarbonizing our economies. However, in order to close the gap it is essential that the Paris Agreement adopt a dynamic approach in which ambitions, the mobilization of climate finance and other forms of cooperation can be adjusted upwards at regular intervals.

UNEP’s analysis also also echos a series of reports which show these actions will galvanize huge expansions in renewable energy solutions.

Current pledges are already set to more than double renewable energy supply and make it the dominant source of electricity by 2030; not to mention the huge benefits they will deliver in terms of lives and money saved, and jobs created.

But more ambition means more benefits. If governments arrive in Paris ready to support a mechanism to regularly review and scale up action in line with a complete phase out of fossil fuel emissions by 2050, they would take another stride towards limiting warming to below 2C; accelerate the shift to 100 per cent renewables; and protect millions more lives, save billions of additional dollars, and deliver millions more jobs.

Support is growing for such a robust regime.

The presidents of France and China, this week, added their voices to the growing call for a climate agreement that reviews emissions cuts every five years and sends a “clear signal” for a low-carbon transition; echoing similar sentiments made by Brazil, Germany, the US and G7 countries in recent months.

Next week the world’s most vulnerable nations will be meeting to lay out their aims for December’s summit.

It is expected they will strengthen their previous calls for a Paris deal that limits temperature rise to below 1.5DegC, and further financial aid to help poorer nations build resilience and maximise emissions reductions.

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