Record of emissions in 2017: we need to change our route

The Emissions Gap Report presented by UN Environment analyzes studies on the current and future greenhouse gasses emissions and compares them with the emission levels needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The so-called “emission gap” can be defined as the difference between the “where likely we will be” and the “where we need to be” in terms of global greenhouse gasses emissions. The IX edition of this report stands with the IPCC special report. Both documents show that, now more than ever, each country is required to act urgently and immediately. The current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are far from enough to cover the emission gap before 2030. The message is clear: it’s technically possible to meet Paris’ goals, but without more ambitious NDCs, it won’t be possible to control global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The global emissions don’t seem to peak. After three years of stabilization, in 2017 the CO2 emissions raised and reached the record level of 53.5 GtCO2. This data led to evaluate the necessity of tripling the current efforts on NDCs in order to contain global warming within 2°C, while these efforts will have to raise 5 or 6 times to fix the limit to 1.5°C. Though, in case the states would demonstrate too lazy in reducing their greenhouse gasses emissions, the report evaluates that global temperature will raise up to 3°C by the end of the century. Moreover, the maximum amount of CO2 that we can emit to limit global warming to 2°C – the so-called “carbon budget”, will end by 2030. Currently, the carbon budget for lowering the bar to 1.5°C is finished yet. A further reason that increased the emission gap is the worsening of the previsions about adopting innovations of the carbon removal technologies in the medium-long term.

The report is not only giving us an outline of the situation, put it also provides possible solutions to implement in order to reduce the emission gap. Firstly, states are required to strengthen their ambitions about mitigation and to raise their national policies efficiency. Moreover, a central role could be played by fiscal policy reforms and with the introduction of the carbon tax, through which it would be possible to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels. On this matter, we already find examples in Switzerland, Sweden and Canada. One last possibility pointed out by the report as a possible key to bridge the emission gap is to accelerate technological innovation since it can deeply modify societies and consequently their emissions.

In conclusion, the report’s authors are sending a clear message to governments: the fact that the gap is seriously big is incontrovertible. However, the chances to bridge the gap are bigger. When choices related to the climate sector have to be made, we are not allowed to take risks because it is exactly by the solutions here adopted that the future livability of the planet depends.

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