World on track for three-degree warming despite environmental gains in pandemic

The world is on track to warm by more than three degrees by the end of the century, despite the coronavirus pandemic prompting a record drop in global emissions, a United Nations report warns.

For Australia, carbon dioxide emissions have dropped to their lowest levels since 1998 in the past financial year.

But 2020 is on track to be one of the the world’s three warmest years on record, and Australia is one of five G20 members whose climate ambitions are expected to fall short, according to the UN report.

It found the world was still headed for a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees this century – far beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below two degrees and pursuing 1.5 degrees.

Australia reduced its emissions by about 10 million tonnes to 518 million tonnes for the year to June, compared to the previous 12 months.

The country is also on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, emission projections show.

On Thursday, federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor will release data that is expected to show Australia’s position against the 2030 target has improved by 639 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions since 2018.

“We have a clear plan to meet and beat our 2030 target and the updated projections reflect Australia’s strong performance,” Mr Taylor said.

“Action and outcomes are what matter, and our track record is one that all Australians can be proud of.”

And global carbon dioxide emissions are predicted to fall up to 7 per cent in 2020.

But this dip means only a 0.01-degree reduction of global warming by 2050, meaning that won’t be enough to keep warming well below two degrees, the report found.

The UN is urging governments around the world to boost emissions reductions goals and focus on green recoveries from the pandemic.

“The pandemic is a warning from nature that we must act on climate change, nature loss and pollution. It also provides an opportunity for a recovery that puts the world on a two-degree pathway,” the report said.

According to the report, green recoveries are the way to go to help drive down emissions.

As well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Korea, and the US are expected to miss their Paris agreement targets.

Just about a quarter of G20 members have dedicated shares of their spending, up to 3 per cent of GDP, explicitly to low-carbon measures.

The report said about two-thirds of global emissions were linked to private households and mobility, residential and food sectors each contributed about 20 per cent of lifestyle emissions.

It uses Australia as a case study to show environmental regulations rolled back for the energy industry, in terms of fees frozen for coal and gas exploration in Queensland.

The Morrison government’s gas-led recovery is also highlighted.

The report comes ahead of an online climate summit organised in lieu of a global conference postponed until late 2021.

One of the main goals for that meeting was for nations to increase their climate ambitions and to cement the rules on how to achieve the Paris agreement goals.

One rule under contention has been the use of perceived credit from former emissions goals to be used for the Paris targets.

Australia was the only country wanting to use the accounting method, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged his intention to drop the plan.

He reportedly does not yet have a speaking spot for the December 12 summit, led by British PM Boris Johnson and the UN.

The UN has previously told countries their ticket to speak is commitment to stronger climate action.

Mr Morrison hasn’t yet announced a target for net zero emissions by 2050 but faces pressure to do so.

-with AAP

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