Sep 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

UN warns of "catastrophic" climate change failure without more emissions cuts

UN head Antonio Guterres.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a news conference. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

A United Nations report released Friday warned that the planet will likely warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century unless governments take extra steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Why it matters: The report, released just months ahead of November's UN Climate Summit, highlights the growing pressure on global leaders to crack down on emissions to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Driving the news: For the report, 113 countries, including the United States, submitted new pledges that would add up to a 12% decline in emissions by 2030 compared with 2020 levels.

  • But dozens of countries, including China, India and Saudi Arabia, didn't make any new formal commitments.

The big picture: Taken together, the current climate pledges made by all 191 signatories of the Paris climate accord would result in a 16% increase in emissions over 2010 levels.

  • The report indicates that the world must sharply increase efforts to curb emissions to meet the chief goal of the Paris accord, which calls for warming to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

What they're saying: "Today’s report ... shows that the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees of heating," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.

  • "This is breaking the promise made six years ago to pursue the 1.5-degree Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement. Failure to meet this goal will be measured in the massive loss of lives and livelihoods."
  • The UN chief added that the world has "the tools to achieve this target. But we are rapidly running out of time."

The bottom line: "It is time for leaders to stand and deliver, or people in all countries will pay a tragic price," he said.

Go deeper: UN climate summit warning signs are adding up

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