Global industry will need to find emissions cuts of 1.5 to 4.6 gigatons of CO2e, as part of wider efforts to keep global temperature rises below 2°C, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme.
The Emissions Gap Report 2013 warns that annual 2013-2020 “business as usual” emissions of about 59 Gt CO2e are dangerously far above the median 44 Gt deemed necessary to stay in the target temperature zone.
And even if all countries are successful in meeting their most stringent climate commitments, annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 will be about 52 Gt CO2e. With other policy implementation scenarios, emissions will be higher.
“If the world wants to limit global warming to below 2°C this century… annual greenhouse-gas emissions will likely need to peak soon and decline roughly 14 percent by 2020 (and then, crucially, keep falling for decades thereafter),” the Washington Post notes in its analysis of the report.
Industrial emissions reductions in the 1.5 to 4.6 Gt range would bring emissions down from the business-as-usual scenario to the targeted 44 Gt, if achieved together with the following annual cuts:
- Power sector: 2.2 to 3.9 Gt
- Transport: 1.7 to 2.5 Gt
- Buildings: 1.4 to 2.9 Gt
- Agriculture: 1.1 to 4.3 Gt
- Forestry: 1.3 to 4.2 Gt
- Waste: about 0.8 Gt
The report sets out a stark message for policy-makers: even if you meet your policy commitments (which you have a history of not doing), it still wouldn’t be enough. But the report does offer some hope, saying further reductions could be found through strengthened fuel-economy standards, building codes and renewables development, and through reduced subsidies for fossil fuels in developing countries.
And then there’s agriculture: simple changes could cut emissions by 4 Gt, the report’s authors said, according to the BBC. These changes include conservation tillage, a multi-method approach that has saved 100 million metric tons in Argentina since the 1990s.
As with many such reports, the major takeaway is: action is required on all fronts, from government to business – and without delay.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.