A new report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) shows that greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 could be between eight and 13 billion tonnes above what is necessary to keep global warming limited at two degrees Celsius.
The annual report was prepared by UNEP and the European Climate Foundation, reports Reuters. It studied a range of estimates, which allowed it to assess if current pledges for emissions cuts will be able to limit the worst effects of climate change.
UNEP found that the gap between pledges to cut emissions by countries and what is needed to avoid devastating global warming affects has widened in the last year.
Last year’s estimate was six to 11 billion tonnes. The difference is likely because of higher-than-expected economic growth and other new data.
The World Bank also issued a warning this week that the world will likely warm between three and four degrees by the end of the century. This change means a higher likelihood of extreme weather, which will become the “new normal” and affect every region in the world.
ABC News notes that the new report was issued just days before a major climate conference, showing that the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide is up by 20 percent from 2000.
The report adds that emissions levels, which are driven by burning fossil fuels, need to go down by 14 percent before 2020 in order to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
The reduction in fossil fuel burning cannot happen unless countries don’t come up with more ambitious plans to cut their emissions than what they have already promised. If there is no swift action taken, then emissions will likely hit 58 gigatons in 2020.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stated that the reduction is doable with the help of more renewable energy, energy efficiency, protecting forests, and higher vehicle emissions standards. Steiner added:
“Yet the sobering fact remains that a transition to a low-carbon inclusive Green Economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting the 44 Gt target is narrowing annually.”
The report by UNEP has also helped confirm scientific observations that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is growing instead of shrinking. The Kyoto Protocol is the only international agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from industrial countries. It expires this year.