The Emissions Gap Report 2010

Authors: UN Environment

EGR2010_cover.pngClimate change represents one of the greatest challenges but also an inordinate opportunity to catalyse a transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy.

This report informs Governments and the wider community on how far a response to climate change has progressed over the past 12 months, and thus how far the world is on track to meet wider goals.

The pledges associated with the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 are the point of departure for this report. What might be achieved in terms of limiting a global temperature rise to 2° C or less in the twenty-first century and in terms of setting the stage for a Green Economy?

And what remains to be done—what is the gap between scientific reality and the current level of ambition of nations? The analysis focuses on where global emissions need to be in around 10 years time to be in line with what the science says is consistent with the 2° C or 1.5° C limits, and where we expect to be as a result of the pledges.

If the highest ambitions of all countries associated with the Copenhagen Accord are implemented and supported, annual emissions of greenhouse gases could be cut, on average, by around 7 gigatons (Gt) of CO 2 equivalent by 2020.

If the above policy options were to be implemented, emissions in 2020 could be lowered to 49 GtCO2e (range: 47-51 GtCO2e), reducing the size of the gap to 5 GtCO2e. This is approximately equal to the annual global emissions from all the world’s cars, buses and transport in 2005 – But this is also almost 60 per cent of the way towards reaching the2° C target.

Without this action, it is likely that a business-as-usual scenario would see emissions rise to an average of around 56 Gt of CO 2 equivalent by around 2020. Cuts in annual emissions to around 49 Gt of CO 2 equivalent would still however leave a gap of around 5 Gt compared with where we need to be—a gap equal to the total emissions of the world’s cars, buses and trucks in 2005.

That is because the experts estimate that emissions need to be around 44 Gt of CO 2 equivalent by 2020 to have a likely chance of pegging temperatures to 2° C or less.

However, if only the lowest ambition pledges are implemented, and if no clear rules are set in the negotiations, emissions could be around 53 Gt of CO 2 equivalent in 2020—not that different from business as usual—so the rules set in the negotiations clearly matter. This report, the result of an unprecedented partnership between UNEP and individuals from 25 leading research centres, underlines the complexity of various scenarios.

The Emissions Gap Report emphasizes that tackling climate change is still manageable, if leadership is shown.

In Cancun action on financing, mitigation and adaptation need to mature and move forward—supported perhaps by action on non-CO 2 pollutants such as methane from rubbish tips to black carbon emissions.