WWF: UNEP report on emissions gap sounds alarm on climate change

World Wildlife Fund’s Lou Leonard, head of climate change, released the following statement about the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Emissions Gap Report 2012.

The report identifies a huge gap between existing 2020 climate pledges and a credible pathway to keeping global temperature increase below 2C. Last year, UNEP estimated this gap to be 6-11 gigatonnes. Alarmingly, this year’s report finds the gap isn’t narrowing, but growing to 8-13 gigatonnes. (For context, annual emissions from the US and China are currently around 7 and 10-11Gt gigatonnes, respectively.)

Leonard said:

“Earlier this week, a report issued by the World Bank painted a vivid picture of the devastation in store by mid-century in a world warmed by 4 degrees C. Today, UNEP’s latest gigatonne gap report charts the path that we must follow to avoid that dark future – and it shows we are drifting further and further off course. Next week, the United States and other world governments gather in Doha with a chance to get us back on track to a safer, prosperous future.

“UNEP’s report shows we’ve got a lot of work to do when it comes to cutting emissions – both at home and around the world – and not a lot of time to get our act together. In the United States, the recent devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy and the crippling drought in the Midwest gave us a glimpse of what runaway climate change will look like. If we want to avoid making that experience the new normal, we need to act now.

“But there’s good news. Climate change has come back into the public and political discourse in the US. President Obama has said he wants to engage in a serious public conversation about the risks of climate change in the coming weeks and months. This conversation must quickly lead to action and setting climate change as a top priority for President Obama’s second term. The UNEP report underscores that climate change will be Mr. Obama’s legacy, one way or another.”

“We have the solutions to solve this problem – energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, smarter transport systems, action to protect our forests and a move to more sustainable agriculture. By far the biggest barrier to delivering these is the collective and individual failure of political will.”

Governments can immediately demonstrate that political will by taking some the actions set out in the UNEP report at the UN climate summit in Doha which begins next week, including:

- Governments must agree on robust common accounting rules for greenhouse gas emissions, and also agree to retire the large amounts of surplus “hot air” emission credits currently swilling around in the system.

- Countries, such as the US, should also move to the top end of their emission pledges for 2020, and come forward with credible plans for meeting or exceeding them.

- Governments must agree strong reforms to carbon market mechanisms to prevent double counting of offset credits and to rule out offsets that do not need to clear net emission reductions.

- Governments must also agree clear process to increase ambition further before 2020, in the context of a promised new international agreement to be struck in 2015.

“With the election behind us, the Obama administration needs to help lead a major reset of the UN’s climate negotiations later this month in Doha. It’s time to put aside the usual debates and move the world forward toward an ambitious 2015 treaty. UNEP and the World Bank have shown us what the future will look like without an ambitious global agreement. We will hand a broken, dangerous 4-degree warmer world to our children.”