UN warns the planet is heading for ‘climate catastrophe’

The planet is heading for “climate catastrophe”, the UN has warned as a report showed how far off track nations are on cutting global warming pollution.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released its annual Emissions Gap report on Thursday, showing that current commitments by governments to curb the rise of global temperature are “woefully inadequate”.

Current government climate policies leave the world on track to reach an average 2.8 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature rise this century, the report said, while implementation of current pledges will lower the rise of temperature to 2.4-2.6C (4.3-4.7F) this century.

Government officials will meet from November 6-18 at the COP 27 climate talks in Egypt to discuss how to limit the warming to below 2C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial levels and ideally to 1.5C (2.7F).

Last year, leaders made additional pledges at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow hoping to reduce emissions.

Since the climate talks in Scotland, additional commitments were made to remove 0.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions (GtCO2e), less than 1 percent of estimated global emissions in 2030, the annual UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report showed.

Policies in place, without strengthening, will likely lead to a 2.8C (5F) rise in temperature by the end of the century, 0.1C higher than was estimated last year.

“We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. Only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster,” UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said.

To reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C (2.7F), annual emissions must be reduced by 45 percent compared with emissions forecasts under current policies. The move requires the investment of at least $4-$6 trillion a year, the report said.

“It’s another year squandered in terms of actually doing something about the problem,” report lead author Anne Olhoff said.

“That’s not to say that all nations have not taken this seriously. But from a global perspective, it’s definitely very far from adequate.”

According to a separate UN report, earlier this week, analysing the latest pledges submitted by countries, 2.5C (4.5F) of warming is likely by the end of the century.

“We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world,” Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, said in a statement.

Under the 2015 Paris deal, countries are required to submit ever deeper emission-cutting plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.

UNEP found that “unconditional” NDCs – which countries plan regardless of external support – would likely limit global warming to 2.6C (4.7F) by 2100 – a level that scientists warn would be catastrophic for humanity and for nature.

Conditional NDCs, which rely on international funding to achieve, would likely see a 2.4C (4.3F) temperature rise this century, it said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed that carbon neutrality goals are useless if not backed by action, adding that the world cannot “afford any more greenwashing”.

“Commitments to net zero are worth zero without the plans, policies and actions to back it up,” he said in a video message.

“Global and national climate commitments are falling pitifully short,” Guterres said in the video, which comes less than two weeks before the start of COP27.

“In other words, we are headed for a global catastrophe,” Guterres said.

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