When it comes to understanding the rate at which countries should be reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to put a brake on global warming, the math is pretty clear. To limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by 2100, CO2 emissions need to reduce by one-two billion tonnes every year through the next decade at least. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, countries are lagging woefully in meeting this target.
Our new @gcarbonproject study looks at fossil #CO2 emissions since the #ParisAgreement. It shows many countries are cutting their emissions. The size of the total cuts needs tenfold increase. I think we can build on this. @uniofeastanglia @Peters_Glen https://t.co/9jMTdM5Ixr— Corinne Le Quéré (@clequere) March 3, 2021
The study, Fossil CO2 Emissions In The Post-COVID-19 Era, authored by researchers from the University of East Anglia, UK, Stanford University, US, and the Global Carbon Project, examines global efforts to reduce emissions between 2016-19. It found that 64 countries did reduce their emissions in this period, but that emissions rose in another 150 countries.
According to the study, annual global emission cuts need to increase to 10 times the current amount for any hope of avoiding a climate collapse. The researchers say the annual fall in emissions needs to be like it was in 2020. Last year, due to the pandemic lockdowns, global CO2 emissions fell by 2.6 billion tonnes, 7% below 2019 levels. The largest share of this decrease was due to a drop in transport emissions. To put things in perspective, the world needs the equivalent of a global lockdown once every two years to meet the Paris 2015 targets.
This comparison shows the scale of the task at hand. At the same time, the researchers warn that it is likely global emissions will rebound to pre-2020 levels as countries bet big on fossil fuels for economic growth. Corinne Le Quéré, the lead author of the report, told The Guardian that governments around the world need to prioritise climate action to recover from the pandemic. “We have failed to understand in the past that we can’t have tackling climate change as a side issue. It can’t be about one law or policy, it has to be put at the heart of all policy,” she said.