2020 Global Emissions Set to Exceed Dangerous Levels by One Third

Under current policy settings, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 could add up to nearly one third more than the benchmark needed to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the latest ‘gigatonne gap’ analysis conducted by WWF.

Plugging The Gap, a paper released at the UN climate negotiations in Tianjin, China, shows that recent science sets an emissions budget of 40 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change. However, the world is currently on track to reach emissions levels of 47.9 to 53.6 gigatonnes in 2020. This figure is based on reductions promised by major economies at Copenhagen.

“While it’s clear that some countries are waking up to the transformations they will need to make to create a low carbon economy, other countries have failed to grasp the need for deep carbon reductions now, and are risking the safety and prosperity of all as a result,” says Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK.

WWF analysis shows that governments could close the ‘Gigatonne gap’ between what has been pledged and what is actually required, if they take action now to rapidly transform carbon-intense economies in the developed world, while ensuring financial support for enhanced climate action in developing countries, and regulating new sectors and gases currently not covered by the climate regime.

WWF warns that failure to embrace these solutions would put the world at risk of overspending its remaining carbon budget (the total amount of carbon we can still afford to emit to the atmosphere before crossing the threshold of 1.5 C warming over pre-industrial levels). WWF analysis estimates the global carbon budget for the period 2010 to 2050 at less than 1,000 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.

“It’s a simple case of the sums not adding up. If we let emissions grow to 50 Gigatonnes per year, we will have massively overspent our fixed carbon budget,” adds Keith Allott. “We need to decrease annual emissions year on year and share the remaining budget in a way that is considered fair not only to the industrialised countries that already used much of the world’s carbon budget, but also to the developing countries that had no such opportunity.”

The paper shows that setting science-based emission reduction targets in industrialised countries is the most effective solution, with the potential of stopping up to 4.3 Gigatonnes per year from being emitted to the atmosphere.

WWF is concerned that emissions calculations are considerably complicated by significant accounting loopholes which can allow double counting or even fictitious claims of emissions reductions. Closing known policy loopholes and accounting tricks currently undermining the integrity of emission reduction targets would add up to another 2.4 Gigatonnes saved per year by 2020.

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