Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
Emissions are rising faster than efforts to reduce them
Efforts by cities, states and companies failing to close gap
The goals set under the Paris climate accord to limit global warming are slipping further from reach as emissions rise and political will falters.
Even if every nation meets its targets, carbon dioxide emission levels will be as much as 19 billion tons higher than the levels scientists say are needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a study released Tuesday by the UN Environment Program. That’s higher than last year’s estimate of a shortfall of 15 billion tons to 17 billion tons.
The study, released in advance of the United Nations conference on climate change beginning Nov. 6 in Bonn, found that national pledges amount to just one third of the total needed to meet 2030 targets. Efforts by cities, states and businesses aren’t increasing fast enough to make up the difference. And if U.S. President Donald Trump makes good on his pledge to exit the climate pact, the situation will grow even more dire, according to the report.
“Momentum is clearly faltering,” said Edgar E. Gutierrez-Espeleta, Costa Rica’s environment and energy minister and president of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly. “We face a stark choice: up our ambition, or suffer the consequences.”
The landmark 2015 agreement calls for countries to reduce fossil-fuel emissions enough to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures at the start of the industrial revolution and, if possible, to just 1.5 degrees Celsius. Failure could be catastrophic. If left unchecked, advancing global temperatures are likely to melt ice caps and shift weather patterns, scientists say, leading to increased flooding, droughts and violent storms.
To succeed, nations must agree to make deeper emissions cuts when they revise their targets in 2020, the report concluded. It also lays out steps to cut emissions from sectors including agriculture, energy, logging and transportation.