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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) officially presented its Emission Gap Report during a side event at COP26 in Glasgow. The Emission Gap Report 2021 analyses the gap between estimated greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 according to the mitigation commitments set out in the NDCs and the global emissions levels needed to stay below 2°C or preferably 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. This difference between ‘where we are likely to be and where we should be’ has become known as the emissions ‘gap’.

The event in which the Report has been presented

In the last two weeks, 150 countries have updated their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and/or submitted new commitments to achieve climate neutrality. Together, these countries account for 81% of global emissions, but UNEP’s latest analysis shows that even with the new commitments, the impact on emissions is still limited.

As the United Nations Environment Programme has pointed out, projected emissions by 2030 would be reduced by only 8% compared to what would have been achieved with the previous pledges: not exceeding 2 degrees of warming compared to the pre-industrial era would require a 30% cut, and to stay within 1.5°C emissions would have to be reduced by 55% by 2030.

To stay within 2°C, commitments would need to be roughly quadrupled, and would need to be about 8 times higher to meet the 1.5°C target.

UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2021, Update November 9th 2021

Another important point concerns the net-zero pledges that, to date, have been made by more than 70 countries. The good news is that countries’ commitment to achieving net-zero emissions has increased. The less positive news is the lack of ambitious near-term targets for 2030 and the lack of transparency in the implementation plans and the reporting and review process.

The report also analysed funding for national post-Covid19 recovery plans and assessed methane and carbon market mechanisms as further opportunities to close the emissions gap more quickly.

For what concerns the recovery plan funds, of the roughly $16.7 trillion spent globally only about $400 billion will be used in green investments to support a faster green transition, in effect an untapped opportunity to close the emissions gap more quickly.

In the first week in Glasgow, 100 countries signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, and a 30% reduction in emissions is expected by 2030. However, the Gap Emissions Report reminds us that the current NDCs only cover about a third of the methane emission reductions needed to be consistent with the 2°C target, and only about 23% of what is needed for the 1.5°C target. There are, anyhow, excellent opportunities to include additional methane reduction measures in the NDCs.

Finally, the number of countries that have indicated the intended or possible use of carbon market mechanisms in their new or updated NDCs has almost doubled since the previous NDCs, showing a significant increase in interest.

However, carbon markets can represent a real opportunity and drive ambition only if the rules are clearly defined and supported by arrangements to monitor progress and ensure transparency.

In conclusion, as Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said, countries are not doing enough, and we need to be more ambitious. Andersen stressed that the central message of the report is that there is indeed an emissions gap, but also a leadership gap that needs to be urgently addressed.

by Margherita Barbieri, Italian Climate Network Volunteer at COP26

You are reading this ICN COP Bulletin article as part of the EC DEAR SPARK project. Marirosa Iannelli, Coordinator of the Climate & Advocacy Department of ICN, overviews this activity. ICN monitors negotiations and reports what is happening in Italian and English, on our website and on social channels, as part of a pan-European consortium of over 20 non-profit organizations committed to promoting climate awareness with particular attention to the role of young people and issues related to international cooperation and gender policies.

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