The recently-released UNEP Report ‘Bridging the Gap’ compares country targets for emission cuts with the reduction levels we actually need for a safe climate future. It concludes with a clear message: the world is not doing enough to tackle dangerous climate change. The publication of the Report is timely, as UN climate talks kick-off in Durban, South Africa, next week. Governments gathering in Durban have to acknowledge the gap and make progress towards a roadmap for closing it.
The world’s governments have already agreed an important goal: to keep global warming below the danger-threshold of 2°C. But, the UNEP Report reveals that governments’ policy actions are not in sync with this goal. With current actions, the world is headed for higher, dangerous levels of global warming.
The Report outlines how targets pledged by countries so far are not adequate to reduce emissions to a level consistent with keeping global warming below the 2°C target which was agreed under the UNFCCC. Estimates of the resulting gap (6 to 11 GtCO2e) are larger than reported in the 2010 UNEP Emissions Gap report (then 5 to 9 GtCO2e). This is a massive gap, considering that the upper end of the range is nearly as large as current total greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s entire energy supply sector.
The good news from the new UNEP report is that the gap can still be closed – half of it just by getting all countries to agree to the upper ends of their reduction target ranges, and by applying strict rules which close loopholes and prevent accounting tricks when it comes to implementation.
Key steps include implementing the stronger conditional country targets rather than unconditional and weaker country targets, and applying stricter rather than lenient rules. Key to meeting these targets is improved energy efficiency and more renewable energy (such as biomass, solar, wind, hydro, etc). According to UNEP, this is all possible at costs that are not prohibitive. The remaining gap can be closed by changes in key sectors like industry, transport, building, forestry and agriculture. The energy sector has the biggest potential to bring us closer to the 2°C goal, mainly through improved energy efficiency and growth in renewable energy solutions.
UNEP make it clear that all this is feasible, realistic and affordable for the world, pointing out that the solutions are available today and that their costs are not prohibitive. All that’s missing is political will and leadership.