Emissions need to peak BEFORE 2025 to limit global warming to 2.7°F

‘We are on a fast track to climate disaster’: Greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 at the LATEST to limit global warming to 2.7°F, warns damning UN report dubbed a ‘file of shame’

  • UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has been released today 
  • It claims there is a ‘brief and rapidly closing window’ to limit warming by 2100 
  • CO2 emissions must be slashed by 48% by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050
  • Methane emissions must be reduced by a third by 2030, and halved by 2050
  • As it stands, we are currently on track for global warming of 5.7°F by 2100

To hit the ambitious target of limiting global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C), global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest, a new UN report has warned.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report claims that there is a ‘brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity’ to limit warming by 2100.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must be slashed by a whopping 48 per cent by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050 if we’re to hit the target, according to the report.

Meanwhile, methane emissions must be reduced by a third by 2030, and almost halved by 2050.

As it stands, we are currently on track for global warming of 5.7°F (3.2°C) by 2100, with devastating consequences for ‘all living things’, according to the IPCC.

‘We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,’ said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee. 

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres described the report as a ‘file of shame’. 

To hit the ambitious target of limiting global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C), global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest, a new UN report has warned

The report found that while emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes temporarily dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic, they rebounded to record highs by the end of 2020 

Sucking CO2 out of the air is vital  

The report emphasises the benefit of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including through activities such as planting trees and new technology, and the challenges associated with them.

‘The largest share of land-based carbon removal comes from reduced deforestation, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems including forests, peatlands, coastal wetlands, savannas and grasslands,’ the report said.

‘Improved and sustainable crop and livestock management can also play a part.’

‘The jury has reached a verdict and it is damning,’ he said.

‘This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a litany of broken climate promises.

‘It is a file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.

‘We are on a fast track to climate disaster: Major cities under water, unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, the extinction of a million species of plants and animals.

‘This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.’

The report found that while emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes temporarily dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic, they rebounded to record highs by the end of 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the world’s richest countries were found to be disproportionately high emitters.

Despite having just 22 per cent of the world’s population in 2019, North America, Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand were responsible for 43 per cent of CO2 emissions.

In contrast, Africa and Southern Asia – who together had 61 per cent of the global population in 2019 – only contributed 11 per cent.

The report isn’t all doom and gloom – it highlights the important work that’s already being done to reduce emissions, including a ‘revolution in renewables’.

It found that from 2010-2019, there have been significant decreases in the unit costs of solar energy (85 per cent), wind energy (55 per cent) and lithium-ion batteries (85 per cent).

This has led to a huge increase in their use, with solar energy alone increasing 10 times from 2010 to 2019.

However, it highlights that governments need to put a stronger emphasis on rapid, short-term action to limit global warming.

The report found that from 2010-2019, there have been significant decreases in the unit costs of solar energy (85 per cent), wind energy (55 per cent) and lithium-ion batteries (85 per cent)

The has been a huge increase in the use of renewable energy resources, with solar energy alone increasing 10 times from 2010 to 2019

World’s richest countries are disproportionately high emitters

The world’s richest countries were found to be disproportionately high emitters.

Despite having just 22 per cent of the world’s population in 2019, North America, Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand were responsible for 43 per cent of CO2 emissions.

In contrast, Africa and Southern Asia – who together had 61 per cent of the global population in 2019 – only contributed 11 per cent.

‘Limiting warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot requires immediate, deep, rapid GHG emissions reductions across all sectors,’ the report said.

‘Substantial reduction in overall fossil fuel use across the full energy sector, the deployment of low-emissions energy sources, switching to alternative energy carriers, and energy efficiency and conservation is central to achieving this.’

To achieve net zero CO2 emissions, the energy system will need to be almost entirely electrified, according to the report.

‘Some minimal use of fossil fuels may remain in hard to abate sectors, coupled with [carbon capture and storage], making net zero CO2 emissions possible – if challenging – across all sectors.’

In terms of quick policy wins, the report suggests a range of options that governments could implement immediately.

‘Solar energy, wind energy, electrification of urban systems, greening in cities, energy efficiency, demand side management, improved forest and crop/grassland management, and reduced food waste and loss, are all supported by the public, technically viable and increasingly cost-effective,’ it advised. 

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: ‘The message from the world’s top scientists is clear. If we want to stop our descent into climate hell we need to urgently tackle our addiction to industrial meat and fossil fuels.

The report sets out the actions required to curb global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), including deep cuts to fossil fuels with a switch to technology such as renewables

UK Government to unveil its energy security strategy

In the UK, the fossil fuel industry and some MPs have urged a restart to controversial fracking or more extraction from North Sea oil and gas, but there have also been widespread calls for insulating homes, more renewables and weaning the country off gas in response to the crisis.

The Government is set to unveil its new energy security strategy on Thursday, with expectations it will set out plans to boost new nuclear power capacity, solar and offshore wind.

But there appears to have been debate within the Government over the role of onshore wind, although it is cheap and popular with the public, and any efforts to boost domestic oil and gas production in the strategy will prove controversial with campaigners.

‘Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis, funding Vladimir Putin’s war and other conflicts around the world as well as clobbering UK households with rocketing bills. 

‘Meanwhile, the industrial food system is taking up vast amounts of land to feed factory farms instead of people, destroying climate-critical forests like the Amazon and threatening Indigenous People.

‘This IPCC report is clear on what the solution is: cut meat consumption, cut energy waste, dramatically cut fossil fuel use and turbocharge homegrown renewables and clean transport.’  

The report emphasises the benefit of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including through activities such as planting trees and new technology.

‘The largest share of land-based carbon removal comes from reduced deforestation, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems including forests, peatlands, coastal wetlands, savannas and grasslands,’ the report said.

‘Improved and sustainable crop and livestock management can also play a part.’

However, experts have warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new strategies on energy and food are ‘on a collision course’ with the report’s advice. 

Today, Johnson announced that he is shelving plans to double or even treble the number of wind turbines in the countryside and approve plans for up to seven new nuclear reactors instead.

The Prime Minister is said to have rejected ambitious targets presented by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to double the UK’s onshore output to 30GW by 2030.

Boris Johnson has shelved plans to double or even treble the number of wind turbines in the countryside and approve plans for up to seven new nuclear reactors instead, as well as those already in the pipeline (above)

Instead, Tory opposition in the party’s shire England heartlands and within the Cabinet means that new atomic power sites in rural areas are likely to get Government backing.

The decommissioned power station at Wylfa, on Anglesey, has been suggested as a possible location for the first of a series of small reactor plants. 

Mr Johnson is expected to finally unveil his much-delayed new energy strategy on Thursday without any hard targets for onshore wind. But it is expected to lift a moratorium in place since 2015 to allow them to be built were there is local support.

‘The largest share of land-based carbon removal comes from reduced deforestation, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems including forests, peatlands, coastal wetlands, savannas and grasslands,’ the report said 

It came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps publicly opposed new wind farms yesterday in favour of new nuclear sites.  

‘The government energy plan is set to double down on fossil fuels, bet heavily on expensive and slow-to-build nuclear, and ignore our energy-wasting homes, while its food strategy may not even mention meat reduction,’ Mr Parr said.

‘The solutions to the climate crisis come with many other benefits – affordable bills, energy security, more land to grow healthy, nutritious food and restore nature. 

‘But we’re only going to reap them if our government gets it right.’    

Professor Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute, added that the only way we can achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) is to find and trigger ‘positive tipping points’.    

‘To bend the curve of emissions and achieve such a fast reduction requires a spectacular acceleration of current progress,’ he said.

‘The only way we can achieve that now is to find and trigger ‘positive tipping points’ across all major sectors of the economy.

‘Happily, we see examples of such positive tipping points starting to unfold faster than anyone predicted, and the new report points to some of these.’

What is the IPCC report and what impact will it have? 

The latest climate report from the UN sets out the action needed to tackle the global warming crisis.

Here are answers to some key questions about the report.

What is the report?

It is the third part of a global assessment of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the sixth such assessment the UN body has conducted, with the most recent one back in 2013/14.

This third report looks at ‘mitigation’ or the action needed to curb global warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The first part, labelled a ‘code red for humanity’ when it was published last August, examined the physical basis of climate change, while the second report in February this year spelled out the impacts of rising temperatures and the options for – and limits to – adapting to them.

What is the IPCC?

It is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established in 1988 to provide political leaders with scientific assessments on climate change, to help them make policy. Some 195 countries are members of the IPCC.

There always seems to be another climate report coming out. What is different about this one?

The IPCC reports are an assessment of all the available science on climate change.

This latest study references more than 18,000 studies and sources, and has involved hundreds of authors from around the world, who have received tens of thousands of comments on earlier drafts from scientists and governments.

Most importantly, the 63-page summary of the report has been subject to a line-by-line approval process involving scientists and representatives of the 195 governments before publication – which has taken place online over the last two weeks.

It significantly overran its scheduled Friday finishing time, wrapping up the approval process late on Sunday evening, but it does mean that governments have signed off on the findings.

What does the report say?

It warns that without deep and immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, it will be impossible to limit global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C), beyond which the most catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt.

That means substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels, a switch to clean energy such as increasingly cheap renewables, technology to capture carbon and scaling up everything from electric cars to energy efficiency in buildings.

It also highlights ways to encourage people to make greener choices, such as plant-based diets or choosing to walk and cycle, and warns that measures to take carbon from the atmosphere, including tree planting and new technology will also be needed.

What impact will it have?

The first part of the assessment came out in the run-up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, which aimed – and just about managed – to keep limiting global warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C) within reach.

The second part of the report landed just days after the world was plunged into a geopolitical crisis with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war, which worsened already soaring energy prices as western nations scrambled to shift away from Russian oil and gas, has put security of supplies and fuel costs at the top of the agenda for many countries including the UK.

Those backing climate action have seized on the report’s findings on the need for deep cuts in fossil fuel use, saying it is another reason to wean countries off oil and gas, alongside energy security and curbing Russian aggression.

But with fossil fuel companies putting pressure on governments to increase exploration and production, and with consumers facing a cost-of-living crisis, there is a danger – once again – that decisive climate action falls victim to more immediate concerns for politicians.

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