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NEW YORK/NAIROBI: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says the lack of government action to reduce global warming is leading to a 2.5˚C-2.9°C rise in temperatures above pre-industrial levels this century.

The latest UN Emissions Gap Report provides an annual, independent science-based assessment of the gap between government-pledged greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and the reductions required to align with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement - as well as opportunities to bridge this gap.

The report finds that GHG emissions need to be cut 28 percent by 2030 to keep global warming to 2.0˚C above pre-industrial levels and 42 percent for a 1.5°C pathway.

However as none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions faster enough, even the most optimistic scenario suggests the likelihood of limiting warming to 1.5°C is only 14 per cent.

“We know it is still possible to make the 1.5 degree limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. And it demands a just, equitable renewables transition,” said UN secretary-general Antònio Guterres.

The coal, oil and gas extracted over the lifetime of producing and planned mines and fields will emit over 3.5 times the carbon budget available to limit warming to 1.5°C, and almost the entire budget available for 2°C.

Commenting on the data, UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said: "There is no person or economy left on the planet untouched by climate change, so we need to stop setting unwanted records on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature highs and extreme weather.

"Humanity is breaking all the wrong records on climate change. The 2023 edition of the Emissions Gap Report tells us that it’s going to take a massive and urgent shift to avoid these records falling year after year – and to avoid UNEP and others coming back to issue the same unheeded warnings, like a broken record.

"The headline figures of the Emissions Gap Report are hugely concerning. Climate change pledges for 2030 put the world on track for limiting the global temperature rise to between 2.5 to 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels in this century. The cuts required to 2030 greenhouse gas emissions are 28-42 per cent for the Paris Agreement’s 2°C pathway and 1.5°C pathway respectively. We are already at the outer limits of the possibility for 1.5°C, with only a 14 per cent chance of avoiding overshoot in even the most optimistic scenario.

"Change must come faster in the form of economy-wide, low-carbon development transformations, with a strong focus on energy. The coal, oil and gas extracted over the lifetime of producing and planned mines and fields would wipe out almost the whole remaining carbon budget for 2°C – and obliterate the 1.5°C budget many times over.

"Governments can’t keep pledging to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement and then greenlighting huge fossil fuels projects; this is throwing the global energy transition, and humanity’s future, into question.

"Countries with greater capacity and responsibility for generating emissions will need to take more ambitious action and provide financial and technical support to developing nations. Low- and middle-income countries, which already account for more than two-thirds of global emissions, must meet their legitimate development needs and aspirations with low-emission growth trajectories.

"If we don’t make the cuts outlined in this report, we’re going to need to gear up for an even larger effort in the 2030s. The Nationally Determined Contributions for 2035, which are due in 2025, are going to have to be strong, credible and able to set the stage for net-zero pledges to bring emissions down hard and fast. The first Global Stocktake, concluding at COP28 in Dubai this year, will inform these new pledges.

"Carbon dioxide removal, which this year’s report explores, will also be needed more in the future. However, there are many risks with new methods of carbon dioxide removal, one of the main ones being that the technology isn’t in place yet.

"Essentially, the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be. The world needs to lift the needle out of the groove of insufficient action and begin setting new records on cutting emissions, green and just transitions and climate finance – starting now."

The UN notes for 86 days during the first nine months of 2023, global temperatures exceeded the Paris Agreement 1.5˚C ceiling. September was the hottest recorded month ever recorded, with a global average of 1.8˚C.
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