UN issues stark warning to world leaders days before COP26 summit – ‘Clock ticking loudly’

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As leaders are getting ready for the launch of the COP26 summit later this week in Glasgow, the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) latest report just revealed the extent of the gap between what countries have promised following the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the stake of their emissions. eThe agreement set a target of limiting global warming to 1.5 celsius to avoid extreme weather, floods, rising sea levels and other natural catastrophes that could end with thousands of casualties.

However, the report states that each country’s action plans – known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) – only knock 7.5 percent off predicted 2030 emissions.

To meet the goal of 1.5C degrees, 55 percent is needed. This means policies should be even more ambitious.

By 2030, to reach the 1.5C limit, annual greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by an extra 28 gigatonnes (Gt), or be halved from current levels of nearly 60 Gt, over and above what is promised in updated pledges and other 2030 commitments, UNEP said.

For the 2 celsius limit, an additional 13 Gt cut in annual emissions is needed by 2030.

“On current progress, we’ll close the 2030 emissions gap sometime in the 2080s,” Myles Allen, professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford, told Reuters.

“If there is no meaningful reduction of emissions in the next decade, we will have lost forever the possibility to reach 1.5 degrees,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a press briefing.

“It is absolutely essential that all G20 countries present before Glasgow or in Glasgow (pledges) that are compatible with 1.5C,” he added.

“We have eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts,” UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said.

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“The clock is ticking loudly.”

“Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” she said.

Overshooting these goals will lead to “a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the [greenhouse gas] emissions in the atmosphere,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“We are nowhere near where science says we should be,” Espinosa said.

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Net zero commitments may offer a glimmer of hope, as they could curb heating to 2.2 celsius.

Australia just recently committed to net zero by 2050 and China set out its plan to peak carbon emissions by 2030.

But the report warns net zero pledges are still vague, incomplete in many cases, and inconsistent with most 2030 NDCs.

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