Climate: growing gap between promises and reality

To combat climate change, it is necessary to reduce the production of fossil fuels; emit fewer greenhouse gases; and adapt to the consequences of global warming. In these three areas, progress is still far from targets that have been set.

Every year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produces three reports —on production, emissions, and adaptation—that assess the gaps between what needs to be done and what actions are being undertaken.

Rising production of fossil fuels

The top 20 producers of these sources of energies — oil, gas, and coal— are expected to produce by 2030 double the amount needed to limit warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. These 20* countries represent 82% of global fossil fuel production and 73% of its consumption.

This gap is expected to increase, with projected production of fossil fuels in 2030 110% higher than what is needed to limit warming. None of the top 20 producers has made a formal commitment to reducing fossil fuel production in line with the 1.5°C target.

Around 90% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels.

The latest figures from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Current climate commitments from countries will only lead to a 2% reduction in global emissions by 2030 compared to 2019, according to a report from UN Climate published on 14th November, 2023.

CO2 emissions are still too high

The UN has recorded alarming records of emissions and temperatures, exacerbating extreme weather events and impacts on global climate. Up until the beginning of October this year, 86 days have been recorded with temperatures exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, with this September being the hottest ever recorded.

Temperatures could increase by 2.5 to 2.9°C compared to pre-industrial levels if countries do not intensify their actions and increase their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So far, states are far from fulfilling the commitments made in Paris during COP21, as indicated in a UNEP report.

To limit this increase, projected emissions must be reduced by 28% for the Paris Agreement 2°C pathway and 42% for the 1.5°C pathway by 2030. Despite an optimistic scenario where all commitments are met, it is challenging to limit warming to 2.0°C, and the probability of limiting it to 1.5°C is only 14%. The global assessment of COP28 will play a crucial role in aligning emissions within the 2°C and 1.5°C trajectories. High-income countries, especially those in the G20, must act more ambitiously and quickly by providing financial and technical support to developing countries.

Adaptation still underfunded

The countries emitting the least greenhouse gases are the most affected by climate change and must adapt to these changes. Often, these countries, hit by droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events, do not have the financial means to adapt.

UNEP estimates that developing countries need 10 to 18 times more financing than is currently available. Moreover, the 55 most vulnerable economies have suffered losses related to climate change of over $500 billion in the last two decades.

At COP28, global commitment is crucial to protect low-income countries and disadvantaged groups, especially women and indigenous populations, from the effects of climate change. Investing now in climate adaptation can prevent high future costs.

“[There is] a growing divide between need and action when it comes to protecting people from climate extremes. Action to protect people and nature is more pressing than ever,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, commenting on the report’s findings.

*The 20 countries studied are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.

Read the reports in full:

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