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UN warns of ‘accelerating climate disaster’

A United Nations report warned of “accelerating climate disaster“, finding the world falling short of the Paris Agreement climate goals with no credible pathway to limiting the end-century temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Emissions Gap Report 2022-The Closing Window’ called for an urgent systemwide transformation and reducing greenhouse gases by unprecedented levels over the next eight years.

The “lack of progress leaves the world on a path towards a temperature rise far above the Paris Agreement goal of well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C,” the report cautioned.

“We are headed for a global catastrophe,” warned UN secretary general Antonio Guterres in a video message ahead of the report’s release.

The stark message comes a day after the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said in its annual assessment the world is on track for around 2.5 degrees Celsius warming by the end of the century.

‘By-product of Action Gap’

“This report tells us in cold scientific terms what nature has been telling us, all year, through deadly floods, storms and raging fires: we have to stop filling our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and stop doing it fast,” said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen.

The report suggests remedial action across six areas – electricity supply, industry, transport and buildings sectors, and the food and financial systems. It estimates a global transformation to a low-carbon economy would require $4-6 trillion in investment a year and suggested six sets of measures to raise such resources, including carbon pricing and creating a market for low-carbon technologies.

“The emissions gap is a by-product of a commitments gap. A promises gap. An action gap. That gap must be filled, starting with COP27 in Egypt,” said Guterres.

At COP26 in Glasgow this time last year, countries acknowledged and agreed to work toward limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Science mandates reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by the end of the decade. The UNEP gap report shows that emissions are at “dangerous and record highs and still rising”.

The unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) toward climate change are given an estimated 66% chance of limiting global warming to about 2.6°C by the end of the century, the report said.

“Climate pledges since the Glasgow COP26 Conference last year have shaved off only 0.5% of projected emissions till 2030 when what we need is emissions slashed by half by this decade,” said Harjeet Singh, head of Global Political Strategy, Climate Action Network International, a platform of more than 1,500 civil society organisations across the world.

William Lamb, a researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change and lead author of the chapter on Global Emission Trends of the report, pointed out that not only did the coronavirus dip in emissions not last long but that the provisional data for 2021 shows a new record high.

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