Emissions Gap Report 2019
The 2019 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report is the tenth annual report of its kind. It provides an independent and scientific assessment of the emissions gap. This gap is the difference between the predicted global emissions in 2030 and the necessary emissions levels to follow the Paris Agreement and limit warming between 1.5°C and 2.0°C. Countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement are each required to submit a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that outlines the country’s targets for reducing emissions. For this report, the projected global emissions for 2030 is determined by total emissions if currently submitted NDCs are fulfilled. The 2019 UNEP Emissions Gap Report outlines the importance of more ambitious NDCs and immediate action, as well as discussing Canada’s progress toward emissions reduction.
Despite increasing global awareness, understanding and action regarding climate change the emissions gap in 2019 is larger than ever, and the observed 2% growth in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018 essentially follows the long-term exponential growth rate of emissions since the start of the industrial revolution. In order to close the emissions gap this report strongly argues for quick reductions in GHG emissions. The longer that action is delayed, faster and more drastic cuts to emissions will be necessary. For example, at this stage to limit the average temperature rise to 1.5°C emissions must be reduced by 7.6% per year from 2020-2030. However, if efforts had begun in 2010 only 3.3% reductions per year would be necessary. In addition, if action is taken now, opportunities to maximize synergies between climate action, economic growth and sustainable development goals remain open. The report highlights one study which found that, when organized correctly, the annual costs of decreasing air pollution, curbing climate change, and improving energy production together would be approximately 40% lower than the sum of the costs if each issue was targeted separately. Yet if action is delayed then the magnitude reductions necessary will create risks to the global economy, food security and biodiversity.
Due to the nature of UN agreements and the role that NDCs play in calculating the emissions gap, the ambition of national targets and whether they are reached are important subjects in the report. To close the emissions gap, NDCs on average must be more ambitious. In fact, to limit the average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, NDCs must aim for a five-fold greater reduction in emissions than their current targets. With the current targets, if all NDCs were implemented, there would still be a 3.2°C rise in global temperature.
The Emissions Gap Report shows that Canada’s performance is mixed but in general needs improvement. Canada is on track to have GHG emissions 15% above the country’s NDC target. On the other hand, Canada also receives positive mentions for committing to the process of a full coal phase-out with a just transition plan, as well as being one of only seven G20 members to submit a long-term low emissions development strategy.
The 2019 UNEP Emissions Gap Report is an important document that assesses how far global emissions are projected to stray from where they ought to be in order to limit average temperature rise and the worst impacts of climate change. The 2019 report shows that the emissions gap is continuing to grow, and more immediate emission reductions are needed in order to follow the least-costly-path forward and meet Paris Agreement goals. Canada is set to significantly miss our NDC target, and global NDCs are generally not ambitious enough. This year’s report and developments will shine a global spotlight on governments as new and updated NDCs are to be submitted in 2020.
Find the full report here.