A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published Wednesday, said despite a dip in 2020 carbon dioxide emissions, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century.

The UNEP’s annual report titled Emissions Gap Report 2020, stated  that a green pandemic recovery plan could cut up to 25 per cent off the predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions and bring the world closer to meeting the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

According to UNEP, each year, the Emissions Gap Report assesses the gap between anticipated emissions and levels consistent with the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming this century to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C.

The report noted that if governments invest in climate action as part of pandemic recovery, and as well solidify emerging net-zero commitments with strengthened pledges at the next climate meeting to be held November next year in Glasgow, they can bring emissions to levels broadly consistent with the 2°C goal.

“By combining a green pandemic recovery with swift moves to include new net-zero commitments in updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and following up with rapid, stronger action, governments could still attain the more-ambitious 1.5°C goal,” the UNEP report reads.

Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director, was quoted to have said “The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc.”

However, he said the UNEP’s Emissions Gap report showed that a green pandemic recovery can take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow climate change.

“I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of COVID-19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021,” he added.

Findings

The report found that in 2019, total greenhouse gas emissions, including land-use change, reached a new high of 59.1 gigatonnes of carbon (iv) oxide CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e).

Also, it said the global greenhouse gas emissions had grown by 1.4 per cent per year since 2010 on average, with a more rapid increase of 2.6 per cent in 2019 due to a large increase in forest fires.

As a result of reduced travel, lower industrial activity and lower electricity generation this year due to the pandemic, the report said carbon dioxide emissions are predicted to fall up to 7 per cent in 2020.

However, it said this dip only translates to a 0.01°C reduction of global warming by 2050, while NDCs remain inadequate.

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The report said action on a green fiscal recovery has been limited, and that around one-quarter of G20 members have dedicated shares of their spending, up to 3 per cent of GDP, to low-carbon measures.

Nonetheless, the report said there remained a significant opportunity for countries to implement green policies and programmes.

“Governments must take this opportunity in the next stage of COVID-19 fiscal interventions,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the report also found that the growing number of countries committing to net-zero emissions goals by mid-century is a “significant and encouraging development”.

It said at the time of report completion, 126 countries covering 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions had adopted, announced or were considering net-zero goals.

To remain feasible and credible, the report said these commitments must be urgently translated into strong near-term policies and action and reflected in NDCs.

“The levels of ambition in the Paris Agreement still must be roughly tripled for the 2°C pathway and increased at least fivefold for the 1.5°C pathway,” the report said.

“Green recovery”— way forward

The report explained that a green pandemic recovery can cut up to 25 per cent off the emissions we would expect to see in 2030 based on policies in place before COVID-19.

It said a green recovery plan would put emissions in 2030 at 44 GtCO2e, instead of the predicted 59 GtCO2e, a far outstripping emission reductions foreseen in unconditional NDCs, which leave the world on track for a 3.2°C temperature rise.

“Such a green recovery would put emissions within the range that gives a 66 per cent chance of holding temperatures to below 2°C, but would still be insufficient to achieve the 1.5°C goal,” the report said.

The report highlighted measures to prioritise in green fiscal recovery to include: direct support for zero-emissions technologies and infrastructure, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, no new coal plants, and promoting nature-based solutions (large-scale landscape restoration and reforestation).


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