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UNEP: Net-zero pledges provide an ‘opening’ to close growing emissions ‘gap’

The recent net-zero pledges by major emitting countries and the potential for a “green recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic “presents the opening” for the world to close the growing “gap” between existing commitments and what is needed to limit global warming to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

This is according to the latest UN Environment Programme (UNEP) emissions gap report, published today.

The annual report, now in its 11th year, finds that global emissions will fall in 2020 due to Covid-19 related disruptions. But it also shows starkly how quickly the 1.5C goal is slipping out of reach, as well as how limiting global warming to the “well below” 2C goal is becoming more difficult with every passing year in which emissions continue to grow.

However, UNEP highlights three areas – the recovery from Covid-19, a new willingness by countries to set ambitious mitigation targets, and the rapid advances in clean energy technologies – which together provide an opportunity to help close this “emissions gap”.

But, in the absence of more structural policy-driven changes, it suggests that emissions will rebound in coming years and the gap between commitments and necessary levels of mitigation will remain as large as it was last year. (Carbon Brief’s archives also include detailed coverage of the UNEP reports in 20142015201620172018 and 2019).

This year’s report finds that, by 2030, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to fall by 23% from 2019 levels to put the world on track to “likely” (66% chance) avoid 2C warming above pre-industrial temperatures, by 33% to likely avoid 1.8C warming, and by 56% to likely avoid 1.5C warming.

The existing short-term commitments under the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, imply that emissions will simply plateau, remaining only slightly below 2019 levels by 2030.

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