Emissions Should Be Plummeting. Instead, They’re Breaking Dangerous New Records

Next week, world leaders will travel to Dubai to the Conference of the Parties— the annual United Nations climate meeting — to finalize the first “global assessment””, assessing progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. The United Nations Environment Program does not mince its words on the distance of countries from these goals. Today, on the eve of COP28, it publishes a damning report: “Record broken: temperatures reach new heights, but the world cannot (yet) reduce emissions. »

It reveals that instead of decreasing, global greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.2% between 2021 and 2022 and now sitting at a record high. To keep warming at the Paris Agreement upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, emissions would need to be reduced by 28% in just seven years. They would need to be reduced by 42 percent if we have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, the agreement’s most ambitious target.

“This year’s report is being called a ‘broken record’ for good reason,” says Taryn Fransen, report co-author and director of science, research and data at the World Resources Institute. “Not only did the world break previous records for emissions and temperatures this year, but as authors we know we sound like a broken record. Year after year we say the world is not doing enough to fight climate change.

Humanity is heading in the wrong direction. Unless nations get serious about increasing their ambitions, the world is on track to far exceed the Paris targets, with warming of between 2.5 and 2.9 degrees Celsius, the report notes. This would be catastrophic, given the effects we already see with 1.1 degree warming, and given that mere fractions of a degree add to the pain. This month of September was on average 1.8 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, beating the previous record for the month by 0.5 degrees. (This does not mean we have already exceeded the 1.5 degree limit set by the Paris Agreement, as that refers to sustained temperatures and not monthly records.)

The report adds that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than the ambitions of the Paris Agreement would allow – even if the price of renewable energy continues to crater And electric vehicle adoption is increasing. “The problem is the pace,” says Fransen. “Things are simply not moving fast enough because we have essentially wasted decades without action. Now I would say we are taking action and it is having an effect. But we have to go so much faster.”

The transition to renewable energy is a sound economic policy that has many co-benefits. In the United States, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 injects hundreds of billions of dollars into the green economy and has already created 75,000 jobs, in an estimation. Burning fewer fossil fuels also improves air quality, reducing health care costs. So just do it Already. “This is both a frustration but also good news, because it shows us that it is possible,” says Anne Olhoff, chief scientific editor of the new report. “There’s no good reason not to do this. And I think most countries and policymakers lack good reasons not to do so. »

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