That is the bitter message of the annual greenhouse gases report from the United Nations environmental branch, UNEP, which was published on Monday afternoon. All current climate policies added together are not nearly enough to stay below the 2 degrees agreed internationally. It will be 2.5 to 2.9 degrees warmer on Earth by the end of this century, the UN experts calculate.
About the author
Maarten Keulemans is science editor at de Volkskrant, specializing in microlife, climate, archeology and genetic engineering. He was named journalist of the year for his corona reporting.
Under current policies, global CO2emissions in 2030 are estimated to be 2 to 9 percent lower than in 2022. That sounds good, but to stay below 2 degrees of warming, a 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gases is necessary. That is about four times Europe’s total annual emissions.
To stay below 1.5 degrees, the world would have to emit 42 percent fewer greenhouse gases annually by 2030. “That is roughly the emissions of the United States, China and the EU combined,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday afternoon when presenting the new figures.
Guterres is furious about the gap between climate goals and practice. ‘The emissions gap is more of a yawning chasm, filled with broken promises. This is a failure of leadership. A betrayal of the vulnerable,” he raged. ‘We have to change course. The crucial point is the addiction to fossil fuels.’
UNEP director Inger Andresen compares climate policy to a gramophone record that keeps getting stuck: ‘We need to pull the needle out of the groove of insufficient ambition and not enough action, and create a different kind of records (than climate records, ed.): that of green and fair transitions and climate finance.’
Although the world is currently investing on a large scale, mainly in wind and solar energy, greenhouse gas emissions still increased by 1.2 percent last year, to a new record of 57.4 billion tons of CO2-‘equivalents’, a measure in which all greenhouse gases have been converted into CO2. Almost a quarter of that comes from China, with its huge population and new industries.
UNEP does not believe that Europe and countries such as the US, Australia, Brazil and Great Britain will succeed in achieving zero emissions by 2050, as government leaders have solemnly promised. “Net-zero pledges are currently not considered credible,” the report states. “None of the G20 countries are limiting their emissions at a pace consistent with their net zero targets.”
The UNEP calculations are a few tenths of a degree less favorable than last year, because UNEP uses slightly more modern calculation models. Last year it was said that the world will warm up to 2.4 to 2.6 degrees with current policies. Now it is 2.5 to 2.9 degrees.
The UN report comes ahead of the COP28 climate summit, from November 30 in Dubai. That peak is already starting under a bad star: there is a chance that the world temperature this year will temporarily be 1.5 degrees higher than in the time before industrialization, or even higher. For example, September on Earth was on average 1.8 degrees Celsius warmer than in the time before industrialization: the hottest month ever measured.
The figures are important because the international community will officially take stock of climate policy in Dubai for the first time, an arithmetic ritual called the ‘Global Stocktake’. After that, countries will, if all goes well, tighten their climate plans. However, the question remains whether this will be possible at the pace necessary to achieve the Paris climate goals. This requires ‘relentless mitigation and transformation to low carbon’, UNEP notes.