The 10th UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap report, released on Tuesday, is blunt: “The summary findings are bleak”, it says. The annual report compares the direction in which global greenhouse gas emissions are headed vis-a-vis where they ideally need to be if the world is to avoid the worst scenarios. Alarmingly, global emissions have been increasing by approximately 1.5 per cent per year for the past decade, the report notes. That means temperature increases of nearly 4°C by 2100 or “wide-ranging and destructive climate impacts”. Even if all emissions promises by countries are met, the world will still be warmer by more than double the 1.5 degree-target by 2100.
Many countries across the world can testify to the bleakness that has set in on the issue. Just this month, the regional council in Italy’s Veneto region, which includes Venice, reportedly rejected policy amendments that were being introduced to tackle climate change. The same day, the council’s chamber was inundated by flood waters, a member, Andrea Zanoni, revealed in a Facebook post. The symbolism would not be lost on countries across the world. California and Australia were ravaged by major wildfires and bushfires a few months ago: Such massive fires have become so rampant that, internationally, countries have started competing for plane and helicopter contracts to douse domestic fires. The EU has developed a reserve fund this year for firefighting aircraft with contracts that allow deployments across international borders. Last month, a study published in Nature warned that the number of people inhabiting low-lying regions that will flood annually — as the world heats up and ocean levels rise — is three times higher than was previously thought: Approximately 300 million people worldwide will be at risk by 2050.
In this backdrop, the findings of the emissions report are yet another stark warning and a serious indictment of how little has been done to contain climate change. Fifteen of the 20 wealthiest nations have no timeline for net zero target GHG emissions. Just three nations — India, Russia and Turkey — are on track to achieving their emissions plans. However, the report notes, this is because the targets they set for themselves under the Paris Agreement were too low to begin with. The role of the US, particularly, assumes significance: It has started the process to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, while, reportedly, its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have seen a sharp spike in 2018 under President Trump. This is after previous years of gradual decline. One silver lining, as the report notes: Climate protests by young people, who are making it an issue beyond politics, in their efforts to secure a better future for all.