The recent Emissions Gap report confirms that the action against climate change is not enough. Suggest concrete steps to prevent a further rise in global temperatures. (15 Marks)

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The UN’s Emissions Gap Report comes as a sharp warning to countries preparing to meet in Madrid in December, under the aegis of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Every year of inaction is jeopardising the main goal of the Paris Agreement: to keep the rise in global temperature over pre-industrial times well below 2°C, and ideally at 1.5°C.

Emissions gap represents the difference between current actions to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and what is needed to meet the target. In quantitative terms, the UN report estimates that there would have to be a 2.7% average annual cut in emissions from 2020 to 2030 for temperature rise to be contained at 2°C, while the more ambitious 1.5° C target would require a 7.6% reduction.

 

Highlight of the report:

  • The world will fail to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year.
  • Global temperatures are set to rise about 3.2 degrees C by 2100, the report says, bringing catastrophic weather including hotter, deadlier heatwaves and more frequent floods and drought.
  • The top four emitters (China, USA, EU and India) contributed to over 55% of the total emissions over the last decade, excluding emissions from land-use change such as deforestation.
  • The rankings would change if land-use change emissions were included, with Brazil likely to be the largest emitter.
  • India is the fourth-largest emitter of Green House Gases (GHGs).
  • It is among a small group of countries that are on their way to achieve their self-declared climate targets under the Paris Agreement.

Are governments doing enough?

  • Today, countries are not doing enough.
  • An increasing number of countries and regions are adopting ambitious goals in line with the transformation needed, but the scale and pace is not sufficient.
  • Most nations are expected to strengthen their climate commitments in 2020.
  • To date, 71 countries and 11 regions, accounting for about 15% of global GHG emissions in total, have long-term objectives to achieve net-zero emissions, differing in scope, timing and the degree to which they are legally binding.
  • This leaves countries representing the remaining 85% of global GHG emissions still to make similar commitments.
  • G20 members account for 78 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Out of the 20 members, six of them which include China, the EU28, India, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey are slated to meet their unconditional NDC targets with current policies.
  • Theirs is the biggest opportunity to lead the world into a thriving, renewable future.
  • However, India, Russia, and Turkey are projected to be more than 15 per cent lower than their NDC target emission levels the report highlighted.
  • If current unconditional NDCs are fully implemented, there is a 66 per cent chance that warming will be limited to 3.2°C by the end of the century.
  • If conditional NDCs are also effectively implemented, warming will likely reduce by about 0.2°C.

Way Forward:

  1. A full decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary and possible.
  2. Renewables and energy efficiency are critical to the energy transition.
  3. The potential emission reduction thanks to renewable energy electricity totals 12.1 gigatonnes by 2050.
  4. Electrification of transport could reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions by a huge 72 per cent by 2050.
  5. Each sector and each country has unique opportunities to harness renewable energy, protect natural resources, lives and livelihoods, and transition to a decarbonization pathway.

 

Climate emergency declarations are, broadly, symbolic motions rather than legally binding legislation. The UK’s declaration, for example, did not require any changes to the Climate Change Act or the nation’s Paris Agreement contributions. As the UN report points out, India could do much more. It needs to provide more consistent support for renewable energy, have a long-term plan to retire coal power plants, enhance ambition on air quality, adopt an economy-wide green industrialisation strategy, and expand mass transport.

In the key area of buildings, the energy conservation code of 2018 needs to be implemented under close scrutiny. With a clear vision, India could use green technologies to galvanise its faltering economy, create new jobs and become a climate leader.

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