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The world is on track for a temperature rise of up to 2.9C above pre-industrial levels, a report by the UN environment programme has found, even assuming countries stick to their Paris agreement climate pledges.
UN chief António Guterres said that keeping the Paris goal of limiting the rise to ideally 1.5C and well below 2C would require “tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels.”
“Otherwise, we’re simply inflating the lifeboats while breaking the oars,” he added. The world has already warmed by at least 1.1C.
Coming ahead of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in 10 days, the latest UN report estimated the size of the gap between the emissions trajectory implied by climate pledges and the one needed to limit warming,
The level of greenhouse gas emissions stood at a new peak of 57.4bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, the UN emissions gap report noted, after rising 1.2 per cent from 2021 to 2022.
Guterres referred to this “gap” as a “canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives, and broken records.”
Emissions cuts of 14bn tonnes or 28 per cent are needed by 2030 to keep within 2C of warming, and a more ambitious reduction of more than 40 per cent or 22bn tonnes is needed for the 1.5C threshold to be realistic.
The world now only has a 14 per cent chance of limiting warming to the 1.5C goal, according to UN analysis, even if countries honour all pledges, including weaker conditional promises by developing countries, as well as the non-binding net zero goals.
Fully implementing efforts implied by unconditional national commitments would put the world on track for limiting the temperature rise to 2.9C, while the measures conditional on receiving financial and technical support would lead to temperatures not exceeding 2.5C above pre-industrial levels. These were put at a 66 per cent chance.
“Leaders have been in snooze mode, so it is time for them to step up,” Inger Anderson, head of UNEP, told the Financial Times.
Guterres said the joint statement made last week by the world’s two biggest polluters, China and the US, for co-operation on some measures was a “positive first step”.
The UN leadership is looking for three concrete commitments from almost 200 countries at the COP28 summit, including a tripling of renewable energy capacity, the doubling of energy efficiency, and money for a “loss and damage” fund to help vulnerable countries cope with climate change.
The UNEP highlighted that detailed climate action plans submitted by Paris agreement signatories did not match up to the ambition implied by their net zero pledges. In particular, none of the G20 group of countries are reducing emissions fast enough to meet countries’ net zero targets, it said.
The long-term average 1.5C goal enshrined in the Paris agreement, at which scientists believe irreversible changes to the planet will occur, is a different measure to the average increase in a given month or year.
On that basis, climate scientists have calculated that 86 days between January and the start of October had average temperatures that exceeded 1.5C.
Last week, the daily global average temperature surpassed 2C above pre-industrial levels for the first time, the EU earth observation agency Copernicus said. “This doesn’t indicate a breach of the Paris Agreement but underscores our proximity to the internationally agreed-upon limits,” it added.
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