UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2021 – Top 10 Key Highlights


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The 12th edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report 2021 titled ‘The Heat is On’ was released on October 26, 2021, in an annual series that gives an overview of the difference between where the greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to be in 2030 and where they should be to avert the worst impacts of climate change. The report comes during a fraught year such as 2021 that has been witnessing extreme weather events around the world including droughts, floods, wildfires, heatwaves, and hurricanes.

UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2021 – Summary

The Emissions Gap Report 2021 confirms the findings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Clime Change (UNFCCC) report that holds the new and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as insufficient for the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. The Emissions Gap Report 2021 explains that the new climate pledges along with other mitigation measures are putting the world at the risk of a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This level of rise in temperature is way above the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The report states that new climate pledges for 2030 have only limited impact on global emissions resulting in a reduction of projected 2030 emissions by only 7.5 per cent. Whereas a 30 per cent reduction in emissions is needed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius and a 55 per cent reduction in emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report also noted that if countries achieved their net-zero pledges, it could help in limiting warming to about 2.2 degrees Celsius which is closer to the 2 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. However, the current 2030 commitments and lack of policies do not put G20 member countries on the track of achieving even their climate pledges, let alone net-zero pledges.

UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2021 – Top 10 Key Highlights

1. After an unprecedented 5.4 per cent drop in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020, there is a strong rebound in the level of CO2 emissions is expected by 4.8 per cent in 2021. The level drop in total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 is also expected to rise.

2. As of September 2021, 120 countries that represent just over half of the global greenhouse gas emissions have announced their new NDCs. These new mitigation pledges for 2030 have shown some progress in reductions but their aggregate effect on global emissions is insufficient. Of the G20 member countries, the US, the UK, the European Union and its 27 members, Argentina, Canada, China, Japan account for the largest reductions. Australia, Indonesia, the Russian Federation have submitted their NDC targets that do not go beyond its previous NDC targets. India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey have not yet submitted new NDC targets.

3. As a group, the G20 member countries are not on the track to achieve either previous or new 2030 climate pledges. 10 G20 member countries are on track to achieve their previous NDCs while 7 of them are off track. The 10 countries on track to achieve their previous NDCs are India, Argentina, China, the European Union and its 27 members, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and Turkey.

4. The announcement of long-term net-zero emissions pledges by 50 parties covering more than half of global emissions is a promising development. However, these pledges show huge ambiguities. Globally, 49 countries and the European Union with its 27 members have pledged a net-zero emissions target.

5. Twelve G20 member countries have currently pledged a net-zero target that put emissions on a clear path towards net-zero pledges. However, of these 12, six are in law, four are in government announcements, and two are in policy documents. There is an urgent need for near-term targets and actions to achieve net-zero emissions targets.

6. The emissions gap remains large. The new climate pledges for 2030 have only limited impact on global emissions resulting in a reduction of projected 2030 emissions by only 7.5 per cent. Whereas a 30 per cent reduction in emissions is needed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius and a 55 per cent reduction in emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

7. Global warming by the end of the century is expected to be 2.7 degrees Celsius if all 2030 climate pledges are achieved, or 2.6 degrees Celsius if all conditional pledges are also achieved. Additionally, if countries achieved their net-zero pledges, it could help in limiting warming to about 2.2 degrees Celsius which is closer to the 2 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement.

8. Most countries have missed out on the opportunity to use COVID-19 fiscal rescue and recovery spending to stimulate the economy while fostering a low-carbon transformation.

9. Reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors can contribute significantly to closing the emissions gap and reducing warming in the short term. Methane is the 2nd most crucial greenhouse gas. Current climate pledges cover only one-third of the methane reduction required to achieve the temperature goal of 2 degrees Celsius.

10. Carbon markets can aid in delivering real emissions reductions at lower costs and drive ambition to meet their mitigation goals in both the short term and long term. If rules are clearly defined such as comprehensive greenhouse coverage, quantifiable mitigation goals, robust accounting then they would reflect actual reductions in emissions and facilitate meeting the Paris Agreement goals.



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