Achim Steiner UN Under-Secretary General
UNEP Executive Director.
Climate change represents one of the greatest challenges but also an inordinate opportunity to catalyze a transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.
This report informs governments and the wider community on how far a response to climate change has progressed over the past 12 months, and thus how far the world is on track to meet wider goals.
The pledges associated with the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 are the point of departure for this report. What might be achieved in terms of limiting a global temperature rise to 2ºC or less in the 21st century and in terms of setting the stage for a Green Economy?
And what remains to be done - what is the gap between scientific reality and the current level of ambition of nations? The analysis focuses on where global emissions need to be in around ten years time to be in line with what the science says is consistent with the 2°C or 1.5°C limits, and where we expect to be as a result of the pledges.
If the highest ambitions of all countries associated with the Copenhagen Accord are implemented and supported, annual emissions of greenhouse gases could be cut, on average, by around 7 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent by 2020.
Without this action, it is likely that a business-as-usual scenario would see emissions rise to an average of around 56 Gt of CO2 equivalent by around the 2020 date. Cuts in annual emissions to around 49 Gt of CO2 equivalent would still however leave a gap of around 5 Gt compared with where we need to be—a gap equal to the total emissions of the world’s cars, buses and trucks in 2005.
That is because the experts estimate that emissions need to be around 44 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2020 to have a likely chance of pegging temperatures to 2ºC or less.
However, if only the lowest ambition pledges are implemented, and if no clear rules are set in the negotiations, emissions could be around 53 Gt of CO2 equivalent in 2020 – not that different from business-as-usual so the rules set in the negotiations clearly matter.
This report, the result of an unprecedented partnership between UNEP and individuals from 25 leading research centres, underlines the complexity of various scenarios.
The Emissions Gap Report underlines that tackling climate change is still manageable, if leadership is shown. In Cancun action on financing, mitigation and adaptation need to mature and move forward-- supported perhaps by action on non-CO2 pollutants such as methane from rubbish tips to black carbon emissions.
Above all, Cancun must demonstrate to society as a whole that governments understand the gaps left by Copenhagen. But at the same time remain committed to counter climate change while meeting wider development goals.