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CO2 emissions bounced back to pre-pandemic levels: United in Science report

A new report by multiple international scientific agencies has flagged that fossil fuel emissions from coal, gas cement etc are back to 2019 levels or even higher in 2021.

Fossil CO2 emissions from coal, oil, gas and cement – peaked at 36.64 GtCO2 in 2019, followed by a significant drop of 1.98 GtCO2 (5.6%) in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Based on preliminary estimates, global emissions in the power and industry sectors were already at the same level or higher in January-July 2021 than in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, highlights of the United in Science report said on Thursday.

United in Science is coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with input from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Carbon Project (GCP) etc. The full report will be released later today.

While emissions from road transport remained about 5% lower. Apart from aviation and sea transport, global emissions were at about the same levels as in 2019, averaged across those 7 months.

Concentrations of all major greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO) continued to increase in 2020 and the first half of 2021, the report said, adding that overall emissions reductions in 2020 likely reduced the annual increase of the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases “but this effect was too small to be distinguished from natural variability.”

Also Read | Urgent to raise climate ambitions further: John Kerry

United in Science has reiterated that there is high chance that global average temperature in one of the next five years will be at least 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) higher than pre-industrial levels. Annual global mean near-surface temperature is likely to be within the range 0.9°C to 1.8°C in the next five years. There is a 40% chance that average global temperature in one of the next five years will be at least 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels but it is very unlikely (~10%) that the 5-year mean temperature for 2021–2025 will be 1.5°C warmer.

The report has also flagged that coastal cities around the world; low lying coastal areas, small islands and deltas will need adaptation strategies urgently. Global mean sea levels rose 20 cm from 1900 to 2018 and at an accelerated rate of 3.7+0.5 mm/yr from 2006 to 2018. Even if emissions are reduced to limit warming to well below 2°C, global mean sea level would likely rise by 0.3–0.6 m by 2100. “Adaptation to this residual rise will be essential – adaptation strategies are needed where they do not exist – especially in low-lying coasts, small islands, deltas and coastal cities,” the report has said.

“Throughout the pandemic we have heard that we must build back better to set humanity on a more sustainable path and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change on society and economies. This report shows that so far in 2021 we are not going in the right direction,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

 

IPCC’s report last month had flagged that the world may have lost the opportunity to keep global warming under 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels

“This report shows just how far off course we are. The past five-year period is among the hottest on record. We continue to destroy the things on which we depend for life on Earth. Ice caps and glaciers continue to melt, sea-level rise is accelerating, the ocean is dying and biodiversity is collapsing. This year, fossil fuel emissions have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise to new record highs. We now have five times the number of recorded weather disasters than we had in 1970 and they are seven times more costly. Even the most developed countries have become vulnerable,” said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on the launch of the report.

He added that UN climate negotiations (COP26) this November must mark that turning point. “By then we need all countries to commit to achieve net zero emissions by the middle of this century and to present clear, credible long-term strategies to get there. We need all countries to present more ambitious and achievable Nationally Determined Contributions that will together cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. Nothing less will do.”

Guterres, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have called an informal, closed-door roundtable with a small but representative group of heads of state and government, on the sidelines of the General Assembly, on Monday September 20. The Informal Climate Leaders Roundtable on Climate Action follows the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and comes less than six weeks before the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

IPCC’s report last month had flagged that the world may have lost the opportunity to keep global warming under 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels. The 1.5°C global warming threshold is likely to be breached in the next 10 to 20 years by 2040 in all emission scenarios including the one where carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions decline rapidly to net zero around 2050.

According to senior officials in the UN, the focus of the meeting will be a road map for the 1.5°C goal; climate mitigation and adaptation finance particularly the commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 by developed countries.

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