Emission Gap Report 2019
This is the tenth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report. It provides the latest assessment of scientific studies on current and estimated future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and compares these with the emission levels permissible for the world to progress on a least-cost pathway to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” has become known as the ‘emissions gap’.
Reflecting on the ten-year anniversary, a summary report, entitled Lessons from a decade of emissions gap assessments, was published in September for the SecretaryGeneral’s Climate Action Summit.
The summary findings are bleak. Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global GHG emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. However, behind the grim headlines, a more differentiated message emerges from the ten-year summary. A number of encouraging developments have taken place and the political focus on the climate crisis is growing in several countries, with voters and protestors, particularly youth, making it clear that it is their number one issue. In addition, the technologies for rapid and cost-effective emission reductions have improved significantly.
As in previous years, this report explores some of the most promising and applicable options available for countries to bridge the gap, with a focus on how to create transformational change and just transitions. Reflecting on the report’s overall conclusions, it is evident that incremental changes will not be enough and there is a need for rapid and transformational action.
The political context in 2019 has been dominated by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Climate Action Summit, which was held in September and brought together governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and international organizations.
The aim of the Summit was to stimulate action and in particular to secure countries’ commitment to enhance their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020 and aim for net zero emissions by 2050.
According to the press release at the end of the Summit, around 70 countries announced their intention to submit enhanced NDCs in 2020, with 65 countries and major subnational economies committing to work towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050. In addition, several private companies, finance institutions and major cities announced concrete steps to reduce emissions and shift investments into low-carbon technologies. A key aim of the Summit was to secure commitment from countries to enhance their NDCs, which was met to some extent, but largely by smaller economies. With most of the G20 members visibly absent, the likely impact on the emissions gap will be limited.
As regards the scientific perspective, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued two special reports in 2019: the Climate Change and Land report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems, and the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate report. Both reports voice strong concerns about observed and predicted changes resulting from climate change and provide an even stronger scientific foundation that supports the importance of the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement and the need to ensure emissions are on track to achieve these goals.
This Emissions Gap Report has been prepared by an international team of leading scientists, assessing all available information, including that published in the context of the IPCC special reports, as well as in other recent scientific studies. The assessment production process has been transparent and participatory. The assessment methodology and preliminary findings were made available to the governments of the countries specifically mentioned in the report to provide them with the opportunity to comment on the findings.
With the Emission Gap Report which reiterated that global emissions will have to fall by 7.6% every year between 2020 and 2030 if we are to succeed in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, the 25th United Nations Conference on Changes Climatiche has the goal, given how successful it was in Poland last year, to make the Paris Agreement fully operational, and take crucial steps in the climate change mitigation process and in the transition to Carbon Neutrality.