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The Emissions Gap Report 2013

IES scientist G. Grassi is a contributing author of the recent Emissions Gap Report 2013, which warns of the urgency in curbing greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent dangerous climate change. This United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Synthesis report is the fourth in a series of annual 'emissions gap' reports which measure the gap between the likely effect of current greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges and what is needed to keep global temperature rise within the 2°C target.

This year's report warns that increasing emissions will make it increasingly difficult and expensive to limit global warming to safe levels. However, it concludes it is still possible to meet a 2°C target if leaders agree more ambitious targets for 2020. The report, which was launched as world leaders prepare to meet in Poland for the latest United Nations summit on climate change, aims to support international climate change negotiations.

The report shows that even if nations meet their current climate pledges, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be 8 to 12 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) above the level needed to remain below 2°C. It shows that emissions should peak at 44 GtCO2e by 2020 and fall to 22GtCO2e by 2050 to stay within a 2°C target, but that it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet this goal. Under a business-as-usual scenario, emissions would reach 59 GtCO2e in 2020. Emissions in 2010 were already estimated at 50 GtCO2e (based on estimates from the JRC’s Emissions Database of Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR)).


The report finds that the emissions gap could bridged by tightening the rules and expanding the scope of pledges for emission reductions, and by taking further action such as energy efficiency measures, renewable energy initiatives, fossil fuel subsidy reform and improved agricultural practices.

According to Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, “The challenge we face is neither a technical nor policy one – it is political: the current pace of action is simply insufficient. The technologies to reduce emission levels to a level consistent with the 2°C target are available and we know which policies we can use to deploy them. However, the political will to do so remains weak. This lack of political will has a price: we will have to undertake steeper and more costly actions to potentially bridge the emissions gap by 2020.


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