Countries need to raise ambitions, curb emissions to still meet 2030 goals: UNEP

India has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33 percent to 35 percent of GDP by 2030.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the world that we had twelve years to limit catastrophic consequences of climate change, by containing global temperature increase to 1.5°C .

Experts now say that all nations must raise their ambitions by three times to meet the 2°C target and five times to meet the 1.5°C . And this needs to happen by 2030.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), on Tuesday, came out with Emissions Gap Report 2018, which said the current nationally-determined contributions or NDCs are inadequate to bridge the emissions gap in 2030. The report is an assessment of the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels consistent with a 2°C / 1.5°C target.

“Technically, it is still possible to bridge the gap to ensure global warming stays well below 2°C and 1.5°C, but if NDC ambitions are not increased before 2030, exceeding the 1.5°C goal can no longer be avoided,” the report reads.

While some experts say this is an unfair unburden on developing countries like India, which is already doing a lot to mitigate carbon emissions, others say there is a lot of room left for improvement.

What the IPCC report warns we can expect from the 0.5C difference. Source: IPCC Report

Some of the changes the IPCC report warns that we can expect from the 0.5C difference. Source: IPCC Report

“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya in a press release. “The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.”

Ahead of the Conference of Parties or COP24, data from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) shows that global emissions have reached historic levels at 53.5 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (GtCO2e), no signs of peaking or the point after which emissions begin to drop.

Authors of the report assessed that only 57 countries contributing to 60 percent of global emissions were on pace to do so by 2030, India among them.

In the current scenario, the world is heading to a warming of 3.2°C, said a report by Climate Transparency, a global partnership that brings experts and research organisations from G20 countries.

“None of the G20 economies’ climate pledges are on a 1.5˚C-compatible pathway, with only India coming close, at a 2˚C-compatible pathway,” read their report Brown to Green 2018. “India’s sectoral policies are still falling short of being consistent with the Paris Agreement, but the country‘s ambitious policy on renewable electricity is a promising sign,” added the report.

Some experts say that the burden of mitigating emissions have fallen unfairly on developing countries like India.

A man rides his bicycle next to Indian soldiers marching in front of India Gate on a smoggy morning in New Delhi. Reuters

“To say that all countries need to improve their goals by three times is a little unwarranted. India has already begun its transition to cleaner energy sources,” said a distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), R R Rashmi.

India is amongst G20’s most vulnerable countries and is yet witnessing an unprecedented energy transition through renewable energy. However, roadblocks in terms of integrating solar energy into the central grid need to be removed,” he added.

Three G20 members (Brazil, China and Japan) are on track to meeting their NDC targets under current policies, while emissions under current policies of three additional countries (India, Russia and Turkey) are projected to be more than 10 percent below their unconditional NDC targets. This may, in some cases, reflect relatively low ambition in the NDCs, read the UNEP report.

In 2015, of the 28GW of electricity that was added in India, 19GW or 67 percent was coal energy. The percentage of new coal energy dropped to 55 percent in 2016 and to just 20 percent in 2017, said deputy director general at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an environmental research and advocacy organization.

“Not just India, but every country can certainly do better to reduce their targets. In international conferences, most countries submit their lowest possible targets,” he said.

In 2015 Paris Agreement, India promised that it will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 percent to 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Since then, a lot of things have changed. Prices of renewable energy have come down by 40 percent, battery costs for electric vehicles have come down. I think every country, including India, must be far more ambitious. Analyzing trends over the last three years, we can easily commit to a 50 percent to 60 percent reduction in emission intensity,” he said.


This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

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