Climate crisis: The UN finds no credible pathway to 1.5 degrees Celsius in place. According to the UN Environment Programme, there is “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place,” and the failure to reduce carbon emissions means that the only way to limit the worst effects of the climate crisis is a “rapid transformation of societies.”
The UN environment report examined the disparity between the CO2 reductions pledged by countries and the reductions required to limit any rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the internationally agreed-upon target. It concluded that progress has been “woefully inadequate.”
Current pledges for action by 2030, if fulfilled in full, would result in a 2.5C increase in global warming and catastrophic extreme weather around the world. To date, a 1°C rise has resulted in climate disasters in countries ranging from Pakistan to Puerto Rico.
If countries kept their long-term pledges to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, global temperatures would rise by 1.8 degrees Celsius. However, the slow pace of action means that meeting even this temperature limit is unlikely, according to the UN report.
Countries agreed to increase their pledges at the Cop26 climate summit a year ago. However, with Cop27 approaching, only a few dozen have done so, and the new pledges would reduce emissions by only 1% by 2030. To keep the 1.5C target alive, global emissions must fall by nearly 50% by that date.
“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us all year through deadly floods,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“We had our opportunity to make incremental changes, but that time has passed.” Only a complete transformation of our economies and societies can save us from climate disasters.
“It is a tall order, and some would say impossible, to reform the global economy and nearly halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” she said. “Every fraction of a degree counts: for vulnerable communities, ecosystems, and each of us.”
According to Andersen, action would also result in cleaner air, green jobs, and access to electricity for millions.
“Emissions remain at dangerous and record highs and are still rising,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. We must close the emissions gap before climate disaster strikes.”
“The report is a dire warning to all countries – none of whom are doing anywhere near enough to manage the climate emergency,” said Prof David King, a former UK chief scientific adviser.
According to the UNEP report, the global food system was responsible for one-third of climate-heating emissions, which were expected to double by 2050. However, the sector could be transformed if governments changed farm subsidies and food taxes, reduced food waste, and assisted in the development of new low-carbon foods.
Individual citizens could also adopt greener, healthier diets, according to the report.
“I’m not preaching one diet over another,” Andersen said, “but we need to be mindful that if we all want steak every night for dinner, it won’t work.”
The report stated that redirecting global financial flows to green investments was critical. According to the report, most financial groups have taken little action so far, despite their stated intentions, due to short-term interests. According to the report, a transition to a low-emissions economy would require at least $4 trillion to $6 trillion in annual investment or about 2% of global financial assets.
Despite her reservations about achieving the necessary emission reductions by 2030, Andersen cited falling renewable energy costs, the expansion of electric transportation, major climate legislation in the United States, and moves by pension funds to support low-carbon investments.
“It’s my job to be the eternal optimist, but also the realistic optimist,” she explained. “[This report] serves as a mirror that we hold up to the world.” Obviously, I’d like to be proven wrong and see countries take bold steps. But that’s not what we’ve seen so far.”