Planet racing toward ‘dead-end 3C temperature rise’, UN chief warns

World

Plans to stop emitting greenhouse gases in order to limit global warming are nowhere near enough to avert dangerous climate change, a United Nations body has warned.

In its annual Emissions Gap report, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says the climate action plans of governments around the world will fail to limit the global temperature to under 1.5-2C this century.

That limit was the goal of the landmark Paris Agreement, struck in 2015, when almost 200 countries agreed limiting global warming was necessary to avoid extremely destructive impacts.

Current pledges put the world on track for a 2.5-2.9C of global warming, UNEP said.

Its executive director Inger Andersen told Sky News: “None of these scenarios are acceptable to many, many people who live in low-lying areas, in coastal communities in fire hazard areas or in drought prone areas or flood prone areas.

“So we really do need to step up.”

Image:
Inger Andersen said she was still hopeful the world could make the changes needed. Pic: AP

At 3C of warming, scientists predict the world could pass several catastrophic points of no return, from the runaway melting of ice sheets to the Amazon rainforest drying out.

“Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end 3C temperature rise,” said UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

“The emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon.”

In order to keep warming to 1.5C or 2C, emissions must fall by 28-42% by 2030, the UNEP report said, in a year expected to be the hottest in more than 100,000 years.

It added that “relentless” efforts to stop emissions – which primarily come from burning fossil fuels – are “essential” to narrow that emissions gap.

The report takes aim at G20 economies, saying not one is reducing emissions at a pace consistent with their targets to balance out pollution – known as net zero.

If all countries’ climate action plans – known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – and net zero pledges were met, limiting the temperature rise 2C would be possible, the analysis said.

But the report added: “Net-zero pledges are not currently considered credible.”

Ms Andersen said: “Clearly we need to see those that have the most ability, but also with the highest emission load to reduce, not increase.”

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3:05

Net Zero: Sunak lowers ambitions

The UK government recently delayed some key environment measures, which its climate advisers said would jeopardise Britain’s ability to meet its net zero climate target.

It comes hot off the heels of two recent, similarly damning, reports about governments’ insufficient action to tackle climate change.

On Tuesday, a report from the UN’s climate body, the UNFCCC, found plans to limit climate change to internationally agreed safer levels would not actually do so.

And on Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organisation said levels of climate-heating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had reached a new record high.

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23:04

Why China’s emissions may fall

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The recent warnings come ahead of talks at the annual United Nations COP climate summit, with this year’s COP28 kicking off in Dubai next week.

Negotiators will be wrangling over measures to get the world back on track for lower levels of global warming.

But Ms Andersen said she was hopeful because the COP28 offered a chance to change – and she was buoyed by the recent promise of China and the US – the world’s largest emitters – to resume cooperation on climate change.

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