2017 Emissions Gap Report Finds that More Action is Needed to Meet Paris Goals

The United Nation’s Environment Programme (UN Environment) has released its 2017 Emissions Gap Report.  In its eighth edition, the report addresses the “gap” between the emissions reductions necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to under 2º Celsius (as compared to pre-industrial levels), and the reductions that will likely result from the full implementation of the individual country pledges to reduce emissions, also known as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

It finds that the NDCs account for only one third of the reductions necessary to meet the 2º Celsius climate target, and states that “[t]he gap between the reductions needed and the national pledges made in Paris is alarmingly high.”  The press release accompanying the report further states that “[s]hould the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris Agreement in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.”

The report finds that “if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below 2°C can still be reached.” However, it then proceeds to address a number of ways that gap can be closed, including through:

  • Revising and strengthening the NDCs;
  • Implementing emission reduction initiatives by subnational and non-state actors, e.g. regional and local governments and businesses;
  • Implementing sectoral emission reduction measures, including in the buildings sector through energy efficiency measures and the energy sector through the growth of wind and solar energy, and through measures to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas production/distribution and from coal mining (e.g. by reducing gas leakage, recovering/utilizing vented pipeline gas, implanting pre-mining degasification measures, etc.).  According to the press release: “Much of the potential across the sectors comes from investment solar and wind energy, efficient appliances, efficient passenger cars, afforestation and stopping deforestation. Focusing only on recommended actions in these areas — which have modest or net-negative costs — could cut up to 22 GtCO2e in 2030.”

Relatedly, the 1 Gigaton Coalition also released today a report entitled Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Developing Countries: Contributions to Reducing Global Emissions. The Coalition is supported by the Government of Norway and coordinated by UN Environment.

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