The negative impacts of climate change become more intense every year. The climate crisis is part of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. The world has missed the chance to invest in a low-carbon recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, globally countries are missing the opportunity to boost clean and efficient energy as a response to the energy crisis.
Improvements are needed in the building, transportation, industry, and energy supply sectors. Cross-cutting systemic changes in the food and financial systems further indicate that there is a huge potential to reduce emissions beyond the existing mitigation commitments.
Over the last ten years, global GHG emissions have increased, but at a slower pace than in the decade before. From 2010 and 2019, the average annual growth was 1.1 percent per year, whereas it was 2.6 percent per year between 2000 and 2009. In 2020, 55 percent of global GHG emissions are accounted for by the top seven emitters (China, the EU27, India, Indonesia, Brazil, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America) plus international transport.
*Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e): It describes, for a given mixture and amount GHGs, the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming ability
Global warming levels only get close to the Paris Agreement temperature goal if the complete implementation of the highly speculative net-zero pledges is assumed. To get on track to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the need is to cut 45 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. According to present policies, 58 GtCO2e are projected as global GHG emissions in 2030. Broad-based economy-wide transformations are required to avoid closing the window of opportunity to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C.
New and updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) submitted by countries since COP 26 reduce projected global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 by only 0.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e). The emissions gap in 2030 is 15 GtCO2e annually for a 2°C pathway and 23 GtCO2e for a 1.5°C pathway.
In the areas of energy supply, industry, transportation, and buildings, a transition to zero GHG emissions is already underway. However, if these are to occur at the rate and scope necessary to keep global temperature well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, increased and accelerated action is required. Electricity supply is the most developed of these four areas as a result of a significant drop in the price of renewable electricity. Major challenges persist, such as ensuring that changes are reasonable and provide access to energy for those who are presently unserved.
Important steps to adopt to accelerate changes in the provision of energy, industry, transportation, and buildings
- The national government must develop a strategy for the phase-out of fossil fuels and halt the growth of fossil fuel infrastructure. Eliminate fossil fuel support in a way that is acceptable to society. Also, emphasize removing barriers to the growth of renewable energy. The government to promote a fair amount of renewable energy, modify the electricity system’s market regulations.
- Promote circular material flow and support zero-carbon industrial processes. The nations must find alternative carbon pricing mechanisms and plan for just transformation.
- Defining the mandate to switch to zero-emissions road vehicles and invest in zero-emission transport infrastructure.
- Regulate & incentivize zero-carbon building
Sustainable food supply chain
In addition to contributing significantly to climate change, food systems also alter land use, lead to biodiversity loss, deplete freshwater supplies, and pollute aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The food system is currently responsible for about a third of total GHG emissions, or 18 GtCO2e/year. The largest contribution stems from agricultural production (7.1 GtCO2e, 39 percent), including the production of inputs such as fertilizers, followed by changes in land use (5.7 GtCO2e, 32 percent), and supply chain activities (5.2 GtCO2e, 29 percent).
To get on an emissions pathway aligned with the Paris Agreement temperature goal, food systems will have to be rapidly transformed across multiple domains. Transforming food systems is not only important for addressing climate change and environmental degradation but also essential for ensuring healthy diets and food security for all.
To inform action, the emissions gap can be translated into sectoral transformations that turn the emissions curve downward by 2030 and lead to zero emissions in the longer term. The challenge is that multiple major transformations must be initiated in this decade simultaneously across all systems. Transformations in the way we power our homes and businesses; transport people, goods, and services; grow and consume food; build our cities; and manage our lands, are among the required shifts.
The article is based on the report: Emissions Gap Report 2022 (unep.org)
Image courtesy: Answers in Genesis