A study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has outlined how measures to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do not currently go far enough to avoid a global temperature rise of below 2 degrees.
However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report does say that this internationally agreed target is still achievable, but that urgent action needs to be taken. It cites next Monday’s climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar, as key.
UNEP says carbon dioxide levels have increased by 20% since 2000, to a point where greenhouse gases are now around 14% above the level required by 2020 to avoid dangerous temperature warming.
The report comes after a coalition of institutional investor groups wrote a letter to governments of some of the world’s biggest economies to show decisive climate action ahead of the Doha talks.
“There are two realities encapsulated in this report – that bridging the gap remains doable with existing technologies and policies; that there are many inspiring actions taking place at the national level on energy efficiency in buildings, investing in forests to avoid emissions linked with deforestation and new vehicle emissions standards alongside a remarkable growth in investment in new renewable energies worldwide, which in 2011 totalled close to $260 billion”, said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.
“Yet the sobering fact remains that a transition to a low-carbon, inclusive green economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting the 44 gigatonne (Gt) target is narrowing annually.”
Currently, 49Gt of emissions are produced globally each year, and if no action is taken, UNEP claim this figure could increase to 58Gt by 2020. It adds that even if the most ambitious pledges were implemented by governments across the world, we’d still be 8Gt short of meeting the 44Gt 2020 target.
Steiner added, “While governments work to negotiate a new international climate agreement to come into effect in 2020, they urgently need to put their foot firmly on the action pedal by fulfilling financial, technology transfer and other commitments under the UN climate convention treaties.
“There are also a wide range of complementary voluntary measures that can that can bridge the gap between ambition and reality now rather than later.”
UNEP highlights building, transport and forestry as three sectors where the biggest changes could be seen – much of which would be down to improved energy efficiency.