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UN: Nations Must Triple Action to Avoid Disastrous Climate Change

The United Nations issued a wake-up call to world leaders on Tuesday for urgent climate action.

Despite national pledges to curb planet-warming emissions, the current pace of government action is "insufficient" to limit global warming to well below 2 C this century, much less the more ambitious 1.5 C target, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) determined in its 2018 Emissions Gap Report.


In fact, the yearly assessment found that after a three-year decline, global greenhouse gas emissions actually increased to "historic levels" of 53.5 billion tonnes in 2017, with no signs of peaking.

"Increased emissions and lagging action means the gap figure for this year's report is larger than ever," the report said.

Overall, nations must raise their climate action by three times in order to meet the 2 C threshold set by the 2015 Paris agreement, and by five times in order to meet the 1.5 C warming target.

"If the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the 2 C temperature goal can still be reached," the UNEP said.

A world that's two degrees warmer could unleash devastating sea level rise, coral reef die-offs, extreme weather and push hundreds of millions of people into climate risk and poverty.

The annual report comes a few days before the crucial UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland or COP24, where representatives from roughly 200 countries will hammer out a "rulebook" on how to implement Paris accord.

What's more, the all-important summit will be held just months after the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a dire report that warned that the world has a narrow 12-year window to drastically reduce emissions.

"If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation," UNEP Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya said in a press release for the current report. "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."

The report said that emissions in 2030 would have to around 25 percent and 55 percent lower than last year to put the world on track to limit global warming to 2 C and 1.5 C respectively.

"Coming just days before the next round of climate talks, this report makes clear that current emission cuts pledged by governments are nowhere near ambitious enough to meet the temperature goal of the Paris agreement," Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of World Wide Fund For Nature's Climate & Energy Practice, said in a press release. "This was already known but, coming off the back of the findings of the IPCC special report last month, it should help to focus minds in Poland next week."

Fortunately, closing this emissions gap is possible. The report highlights the promise of "non-state actors" such as city, state and regional governments; companies; investors; higher education institutions and civil society organizations. These institutions could cut emissions by estimated 19 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030, which would be enough to close the 2°C gap.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan urged world leaders to follow this lead.

"What are governments waiting for?" Morgan said in a press release. "Non-state actors are already taking action. Corporate leadership on renewable power is swiftly emerging. An increasing number of cities are imposing bans on oil-fueled vehicles and regional governments are committing to the phase out of coal power. Investors and banks are also increasingly turning their backs on fossil fuels. This is the future, this is the hope of our generation."

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