Today, there is only a 14% chance of keeping the average global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius

The mathematics of climate change don't lie: we need drastic action to correct course

© UNICEF/Pun - Jóvenes activistas del clima en Maldivas destacan mensajes clave e instan a la acción climática
photo_camera © UNICEF/Pun - Young climate activists in Maldives highlight key messages and urge climate action

Global temperatures are soaring and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reaching unprecedented levels while none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions at a consistent rate. This is why, more than ever, drastic climate action is needed to move the world away from runaway climate change and align it with the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

The 2023 Emissions Gap Report, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), sends a clear message: unless countries step up climate action and deliver more than promised in their 2030 pledges, the world is headed for a temperature increase of between 2.5°C and 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels. 

A broken record 

Launching the report from Nairobi, the agency's executive director said no person or economy is unaffected by climate change, and stressed the urgent need to "stop breaking unwanted records in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature peaks and extreme weather events". 

"Instead, we must lift the needle off the old record of inoperability, and start setting new records in emissions reductions, in green and just transitions, and in climate finance," Inger Andersen stressed. 

To return to the path of 2°C temperature increase above pre-industrial levels, emissions must be reduced by at least 28% compared to current scenarios. To stay within the 1.5°C limit, a 42% cut will be needed. 

If nothing changes, emissions in 2030 will be 22 gigatonnes higher than the 1.5°C limit would allow, roughly the total current annual emissions of the United States, China and the European Union (EU) combined. 

© UNICEF/Pouget
© UNICEF/Pouget

Bridging continents 

Andersen's message from Africa received unequivocal support on the other side of the world, in New York, where the secretary-general made a powerful appeal to world leaders. 

"The emissions gap is more like a cannon shot, a cannon shot riddled with broken promises, broken lives and broken records," said António Guterres, stressing that change must start at the top. 

"All of this is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable and a huge missed opportunity," he said. 

Reiterating that renewable energy has never been cheaper or more accessible than it is today, he urged leaders to "rip out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels". 

He called on countries to commit to phase out fossil fuels with a clear timetable aligned to the 1.5°C limit, as well as those that have not yet done so, to announce their contributions to the Green Climate Fund and the new Loss and Damage fund to "hit the ground running". 

Taking stock at COP28 

The call comes as the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) is about to begin in Dubai, where the first global stocktaking of the implementation of the Paris Agreement will take place, which will serve as the basis for the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions that countries will have to submit in 2025, with targets for 2035. 

Global ambition in the next round of Contributions should bring greenhouse gas emissions in 2035 to levels consistent with global temperature maintenance trajectories between 2° and 1.5°. 

In the most optimistic scenario, in which all national plans and pledges for net zero emissions are met, limiting the temperature increase to 2° could be achieved. 

However, net zero emissions pledges are not currently considered credible: none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions at a rate consistent with their net zero emissions targets. Even in the most optimistic scenario, the probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C is only 14%. 

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