UNEP report says last year's deal will not go far enough to stop climate change

Source: IPS and UNEP

The UN Environment Programme released a report that concluded the agreed 2009 reductions, even if fully met, are only 60 percent of the reductions needed to keep global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, which scientists – and the accord – say is necessary to prevent catastrophe. 

The findings, launched in advance of the UN climate convention meeting in Cancun, Mexico, spotlight the size of the 'emissions gap' between where nations might be in 2020 versus where the science indicates they need to be. The report was convened by the United Nations Environment Programme in conjunction with the European Climate Foundation and the National Institute of Ecology-SEMARNAT, Mexico.

Negotiators in Cancún will try to bridge that remaining 40 percent – or at least start to – though there is widespread acknowledgement that the ambitions for this year's climate change conference are considerably lower than for last year's summit in Copenhaguen.

It is estimated that, in order to have a 'likely' and cost-effective chance of pegging temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius or below over the 21st Century, global emissions will need to have peaked within the next 10 years and be around 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020. 

In 2009, total global emissions were estimated to be about 48 gigatonnes, and UNEP says that full implementation of the accord pledges would result in, at best, 49 gigatonnes of emissions in 2020. 

In a worst-case scenario, with lax accounting requirements and low political will to stick to the spirit of the accord, emissions could rise to 53 gigatonnes. 

This "gigatonne gap" means there are still plenty of commitments and strengthening of commitments that need to be made at Cancún and beyond, the scientists behind UNEP's report said.

See the report