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UNEP says global emissions must be cut by 7.6% every year for next decade

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has warned global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by at least 7.6% each year over the next decade or risk missing the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

The UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report also highlights seven G20 member nations that are falling well behind their Paris Agreement commitments, including Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

The UNEP’s annual Emissions Gap Report compares current greenhouse gas emissions against where emissions need to be and where they are heading.

The latest 2019 report shows that things are not going well, and that even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C. Such a dramatic rise in temperature by the end of the century will result in wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts across the planet.

“For ten years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and for ten years, the world has only increased its emissions,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “

There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 per cent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade,” added Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director.

“This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action. They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”

“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger Nationally Determined Contributions to kick-start the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” she added. “If we don’t do this, the 1.5°C goal will be out of reach before 2030.”

The report unsurprisingly highlighted the role of G20 member nations, which together account for 78% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and which are “collectively” on track to meet their limited 2020 Cancun Pledges.

However, seven countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, and the United States – are currently not on track to meet their 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDC) commitments, and it is “not possible to say” for a further three countries.

Further, and to make matters worse, six countries – Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, South Africa, the United States – are currently on track to miss their Cancun Pledges, while Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have not made any 2020 pledges.

In all, only five G20 member nations have committed to a long-term zero emissions target.

The report notes Australia is proposing to “carry forward their overachievement from the Kyoto period to meet their 2020 Cancun Pledges” thanks in part to the Government’s decision to count cumulative emissions between 2013 and 2020.

It notes that if this “carry-forward” approach is not taken, Australia will not even achieve its 2020 pledge.

The authors of the report specify that “it appears that the Australian Government intends to use carry-over permits from the Kyoto Protocol to do so, and uses a carbon budget approach that accounts for cumulative emissions between 2021 and 2030 in order to assess progress against its NDC.”

Australia is also one of the seven countries deemed as requiring “further action of varying degree to achieve their NDC” – a fact not helped by “the re-election of Australia’s conservative Government in May” which has cemented the fact “there has been no recent material change in Australian climate policy.”

“The dropping of the proposed National Energy Guarantee in 2018 and that the renewable energy target will not be raised for years after 2020 up to 2030 … leaves Australia with no major policy tool to encourage emission reductions from the electricity sector in the short to medium term,” write the authors of the UNEP Gap report.

Looking at the overall picture, the UNEP shows that, in the short-term, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions faster than developing countries – a crucial point which will serve to undermine or clash with many conservative talking points around the world.

But the report also says that all nations must substantially increase ambition in their NDCs in 2020 and follow up with ambitious and long-term policies and strategies to implement them.

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