Climate change: World way off track on Paris accord goals

Existing national goals will only meet one-third of the Paris climate target, according to a UN report. The study comes less than a week before the world climate conference kicks off in Bonn.

As the United Nations prepares to welcome delegates from across the world to Bonn on Monday for the two-week COP23 climate summit, it released a stark warning today.

Nature and Environment | 06.11.2017

The national pledges currently on the table by the signatory countries will only bring a third of the reduction in emissions required by 2030 to meet global climate targets.

The biggest roadblock is not with national governments, says the United Nations Environment Program report. Rather, the private sector and regional governments aren't increasing their climate action at a rate that would help close this gap.

The Paris goal is to limit global warming to at least under 2 degrees Celsius — and to 1.5 degrees if possible — in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Nature and Environment | 11.05.2017

But as things stand, even full implementation of national reduction targets would still mean a temperature increase of 3 degrees by 2100. The reality could be even bleaker given this analysis doesn't take into account the United States' intention to pull out of the agreement.

"This is unacceptable," Erik Solheim, head of the UNEP, said. "One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future."

Highest CO2 in 800,000 years

This bleak assessment comes a day after the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report finding that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged at record-breaking speed last year, to the highest level in 800,000 years.

Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million in 2016, compared to 400 parts per million in 2015, according to the WMO's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The news could start the Bonn talks off on a downbeat note. However the UN report says simple steps can be taken to quickly ratchet up climate ambition.

For instance, investing in technology could reduce emissions by up to 30 to 40 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) per year at a cost of 100 dollars per ton.

The lowest-hanging fruit is in agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, the UN says. Technology investments in these sectors — at an investment cost of under $100 per ton of CO2 avoided — could save up to 36 GtCO2e per year by 2030. This would put the world on track to meet the 2-degree goal.

In addition, more action pledges by non-state actors and regional governments could make a big difference, reducing the 2030 emissions gap by a few GtCO2e.

Avoiding new coal-fired power plants and accelerated phasing out of existing plants would also help.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 10: Upgrade lightbulbs

You just bought a fancy lamp? Make it cooler with efficient lightbulbs. This is one of the small actions that make a difference in the long-term - and let's be honest, it's not a big effort. Some LED bulbs consume up to 90 percent less than traditional ones.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 9: Hang laundry to dry

In cold or rainy countries, the task might be challenging - but these challenges are nothing compared to the worst consequences of climate change.

Recycling containers (Fotolia/TrudiDesign)

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 8: Recycling

Recycling has become normal behavior for thousands of people around the world. It definitely contributes to making a better world - but unfortunately, it is not enough.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 7: Wash clothes on cold

Worried about your clothes shrinking in hot water? Here another reason to keep washing with cold water: Since it avoids turning on the water heater, cold-water washing also produces less greenhouse gas emissions.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 6: Drive a hybrid

Until you are ready to get rid of your car completely, you could move to a hybrid electric car. But beware: The electricity that powers it is probably still coming from dirty fossil fuels.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 5: Switch to a vegetarian diet

Beef production is the largest driver of tropical deforestation worldwide, with soy production closely following - mainly to feed animals. The carbon footprint of a meat-based diet is almost double that of a vegetarian one. Even reducing the amount of meat you eat makes a difference.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 4: Buy green energy

Renewable energies are the new trend - but we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels such as coal. In countries like Germany, you can choose your energy provider - among some that draw from renewable sources.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 3: Cancel one trans-Atlantic flight

Air travel is a major challenge when it comes to tackling climate change. Policy-makers are exploring ways to reduce the climate impact of flights - but in the meantime, you can start thinking twice before taking a plane. Particularly to cross the pond.

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 2: Don't use a car

Getting rid of your car is the second-most effective action you can take to tackle climate change. And riding your bike also helps keep you fit!

How to stop climate change? Start now!

Number 1: Have one less child

Giving birth to a new person consuming and polluting at the current rate of people in industrialized countries is the worst thing you can do for the planet, according to the study. But if you start now with the other nine actions, your kids might be able to live in a better world.

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