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

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First Post, India

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 it had 12 years to limit the catastrophic consequences of climate change by containing global temperature increases to 1.5-degrees Celsius.

Experts now say that all nations must raise their ambitions of limiting climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions by three times to meet the 2°C ceiling laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Those ambitions will need to increase five-fold if countries are to keep avareage global temperature rise closer to a 1.5°C goal. And this all needs to happen by 2030.

A recent IPCC report warns of dramatic changes expected from a 0.5-degree Celsius temperature increase / Credit: IPCC Report

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), on Tuesday, came out with Emissions Gap Report 2018which said current nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) -- each country's efforts to reduce their national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change -- are inadequate to bridge the emissions gap in 2030. The report is an assessment of the gap between anticipated emissions levels in 2030 and levels needed to reach the 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 burden on developing countries like India, which is already doing a lot to mitigate carbon emissions, others say there is a plenty of room left for improvement.

“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, scheduled for next month in Poland, 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). And there are no signs of peaking, the point after which emissions begin to drop.

Authors of the report determined that only 57 countries were on pace to curb their emissions by 2030, India among them. Together, those countries contribute to 60 percent of global emissions.

In the current scenario, the world is heading toward a warming of 3.2°C, according to a report by Climate Transparency, a global partnership that brings together experts and research organisations from the world's top 20 economies. 

“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,” reads the 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,” the report added.

“To say that all countries need to improve their goals by three times is a little unwarranted," said R.R. Rashmi, a distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute, a non-profit policy research organization.  "India has already begun its transition to cleaner energy sources."

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

Rashmi pointed out that India is among the G20’s most vulnerable countries, yet it is witnessing an unprecedented energy transition through renewable energy. However, he said, roadblocks in terms of integrating solar energy into the central grid need to be removed.

Three G20 members (Brazil, China and Japan) are on track to meet their NDC targets under current policies, while emissions reductions 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 ambitions in their orignial NDCs, read the UNEP report.

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

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, India promised that it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 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.