UN Report Finds Rise in Emissions From China and US

Smoke billows from a plant in Paris on Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

(CN) – The United Nations issued a bleak warning Tuesday about the prospects of reducing the impact of climate change, reporting that two of the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, have emitted more greenhouse gases in the past year.

The U.N.’s 2019 emissions gap report says that to avert climate catastrophe, the world needs to institute deeper cuts to emissions and fast. At the current rate, emissions targets outlined in the 2016 Paris climate agreement are unobtainable. Under that agreement, nations pledged to reduce emissions over 10 years ending in 2030 to curtail warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A 2.7% per year cut would limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the report says.

The U.N. says the world must cut emissions by 7.6% per year to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. Under current pledges, the planet is moving toward a 3.2-degree rise, according to the report.

Scientists say that anything at 2 degrees Celsius or more will increase the worst impacts of climate change, including the frequency of heatwaves, sea-level rise, storms and droughts that will displace millions of people.

“Our collective failure to act strongly and early means that we must now implement deep and urgent cuts,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, wrote in the report. “We have to learn from our procrastination. Any further delay brings the need for larger, more expensive and unlikely cuts.”

Andersen said that though the 7.6% target, a five-fold reduction in emissions, may seem shocking and impossible to meet in the near future, countries all over the world must try.

The report is the collective work of leading scientists from around the globe. It looks at the emissions gap, which is the difference between where the world is likely to be in the future and where it has to be to avert climate catastrophe.

The U.N. says that the summary findings are bleak and countries have collectively failed to reduce emissions.

According to the report, though 65 countries have pledge to reduce emissions to net-zero by mid-century, most G20 members including the U.S. and China are “visibly absent” and therefore the “likely impact on the emissions gap will be limited.”

G20 members are also responsible for three-fourths of global emissions, according to the report. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris agreement in June 2017, making good on a campaign promise.

“For 10 years, the emissions gap report has been sounding the alarm – and for 10 years, the world has only increased its emissions,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a prepared statement. “There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”

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