Last week’s UN Environment Emissions Gap Report showed that the world’s ‘distance to target’ on carbon emissions continues to grow. The gap between current NDCs and the 1.5 and 2 degree trajectories ranges between a huge 11 and 19 gigatons of CO2 equivalent emissions for 2030, 20-35% of present emissions.
Scientists suggest that the even with full implementation of current NDCs 80% of the carbon budget for 2 degrees will be depleted by 2030, and would be fully depleted for the 1.5 degree target. And that is if countries actually fulfill their NDC commitments, which is in doubt for the US, Indonesia, Australia, and several others.
The conclusion is that current NDCs are not enough. Governments already know that their combined pledges for 2030 are insufficient, particularly those of industrialised countries. The IPCC Special Report in autumn 2018 will show this ever more clearly, but governments should not wait for this to act.
There is good news, however. Global CO2 equivalent emissions — not just energy-related CO2 — seem to have plateaued between 2014 to 2016. Moreover, there is growing potential for cost-effective carbon cuts, defined as below $US100/ton CO2, until 2030. This means that the number of policies with minimal or even negative costs have been growing significantly.
Scientists assume that the world can cost-effectively reduce GHG emissions by between 30 and 41 gigatons CO2 equivalent compared to the present trajectory. Large potential lies in energy efficiency, solar and wind, restoration of degraded land, halting deforestation, and through dramatic reductions in coal use. Acting on these areas together would be more than enough to close the emission gap.
If externalities such as air pollution and carbon emissions are also included in the analysis, the economic potential of cutting emissions is even greater.
Interestingly, the UN Environment report also shows that negative emissions from sources such as bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), nuclear, or conventional carbon capture and storage (CCS), play a very minor role in bringing the world onto a Paris-compliant trajectory by 2030.
ECO encourages all governments to study the findings of the UN Environment report, negative and positive, and understand what it means for them in terms of taking fast and ambitious domestic action.