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No credible pathway to 1.5 C in place: UN


Casts doubt on credibility of net-zero pledges

Carbon markets, finance, system change needed

Incremental action no longer possible

  • Author
  • James Burgess
  • Editor
  • Jonathan Fox
  • Commodity
  • Energy Transition
  • Topic
  • COP27 Energy Transition Environment and Sustainability

There is "no credible pathway" to limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, the UN Environment Programme said in its latest Emissions Gap Report, published Oct. 27.

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Instead, the global temperature is on course to rise by 2.8 C by 2100 under current policies, while implementation of current pledges will only limit the rise to 2.4-2.6 C.

The report, released ahead of the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt in November, "finds that the international community is falling far short of the Paris goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5 C in place," the UN said. "Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster."

It comes a day after the UN Climate Change secretariat also indicated the world was on course to hit 2.5 C by the end of the century.

The UN Environment Programme found that progress on CO2 emissions targets since the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021 had been "woefully inadequate," with new and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions amounting to reductions of just 0.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, by 2030. This is a reduction of less than 1%, it said.

A reduction of 30%-45% was needed by 2030 to get on a "least-cost" pathway to limiting warming to 2 C and 1.5 C, respectively.

The UN said the G20 group of countries is expected to fall short of its 2030 promises without strengthened action.

The lack of progress left the world on a pathway towards temperature increases well in excess of the Paris Agreement goal of well below 2 C, and preferably 1.5 C.

"Implementation of all NDCs plus net-zero commitments made by an increasing number of countries point to a 1.8 C increase," the UN said. "However, this scenario is not credible, based on the discrepancy between current emissions, near-term NDC targets and long-term net-zero targets."

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Key actions

Gradual change was no longer possible, and a "rapid and systemic" transformation of global energy, food and financial systems was required, it said. "Every fraction of a degree matters."

Key actions included avoiding locking in new fossil fuel-intensive infrastructure, advancing zero-carbon technologies, reforming food systems and changing diets and mobilizing finance.

The UN said investment of at least $4 trillion-$6 trillion a year was needed, but noted that this was a "relatively small share of total financial assets managed," amounting to 1.5%-2%.

Carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems should be rolled out, as well as the creation of low-carbon technology markets and mobilizing central banks to address the climate crisis.

Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed CORSIA-eligible carbon credits at 3.25/mt on Oct. 26, down from $8.35/mt at the start of the year.

IEA optimism

The UN's forecast 2.4-2.6 C rise contrasts with the IEA's more optimistic view in its latest World Energy Outlook, also published Oct. 27.

Under its central Announced Pledges scenario, the IEA said CO2 emissions were on course to peak in the mid‐2020s and fall to around 12 gigatons in 2050.

"The projected global median temperature rise in 2100 is about 1.7 C," the IEA said. "This gets close to achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit the temperature rise to 'well below 2 C,' and it marks the first time that collective government targets and pledges have been sufficient, if delivered in full and on time, to hold global warming to below 2 C."

S&P Global forecasts global peak emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels to occur in 2028 at 35.886 gigatons under the Reference Case in its Global Integrated Energy Model.