UN sets ambitious new target to tackle climate change
Alok Gupta

Countries need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6 percent each year for the next decade to meet the 2030 climate target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, said a UN report released on Tuesday.

At the current rate of emissions, even if commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement are fulfilled, the world is on track to warm by 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2030.

Global efforts need to increase by "more than five fold over current levels" to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark.

Rather than reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the gases responsible for causing global warming, emissions has increased at the rate of 1.5 percent every year in the last decade. In 2018, total emissions spiraled to 55.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent estimated the UN Emission Gap Report 2019.

But to achieve the climate target of at least 2 degrees Celsius in 2030, emissions should be 40.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and 23.3 gigatonnes for the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

Because countries failed to cut emissions in 2010, the annual reductions required to meet the 2 degrees Celsius goal are triple what they were, and more than double for the ambitious mark of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over seven percent each year – if we break it down evenly over the next decade," said Inger Andersen, executive director of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The annual report calculates the gap between anticipated greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 and levels required to meet the 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius target set under the Paris Agreement.

The dismal scenario comes on the eve of a year when global leaders are set to meet in Glasgow for UN Climate Change Summit in 2020 to significantly step up their climate commitments.

Temperature rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius would increase extreme weather events, including heatwaves, storms and sea-level rise, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Rich nations should take the lead

G20 nations release 78 percent of total global emissions. But only five of the member countries from the bloc have announced a long-term zero emissions target.

The report observed that developed countries should reduce their emissions quicker as developing countries still have the right to increase their emission levels. Lifestyle changes and consumption patterns also need to adapt, otherwise the environmental damage done could be irreversible.

"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," Andersen added.

"If we don't do this, the 1.5 degree Celsius goal will be out of reach before 2030," she warned.