Countries’ current emissions pledges to limit climate change would still put the world on track to warm by nearly 3 degrees this century, according to a United Nations analysis.
The annual Emissions Gap report, which assesses countries’ promises to tackle climate change compared with what is needed, says the world faces between 2.5-2.9 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels if governments do not boost climate action.
At 3 degrees of warming, scientists predict the world could pass several catastrophic points of no return, from the runaway melting of ice sheets to the Amazon rainforest drying out.
“Present trends are racing our planet down a dead-end 3-degree temperature rise,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
“The emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon.”
World leaders will soon meet in Dubai for the annual UN climate summit COP28 with the aim of keeping the Paris Agreement warming target of 1.5 degrees alive.
But the new UN report did little to inspire hope that this goal remained in reach, concluding that planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 42 per cent by 2030 to hold warming at 1.5 degrees.
Even in the most optimistic emissions scenario, the chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is just 14 per cent – adding to a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting the goal is dead.
Global greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.2 per cent from 2021 to 2022, reaching a record 57.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The report assessed countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions, which they are required to update every five years, to determine how much the world might warm if these plans were fully implemented.
It compares unconditional pledges – promises with no strings attached, which would lead to a 2.9-degree temperature rise – to conditional pledges that would hold warming to 2.5 degrees.
“That is basically unchanged compared with last year’s report,” said Anne Olhoff, chief scientific editor of the report.
The anticipated level of warming is slightly higher than 2022 projections, which then pointed toward a rise of between 2.4-2.6 degrees by 2100, because the 2023 report ran simulations on more climate models.
However, the world has made progress since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015.
Warming projections based on emissions at that time “were way higher than they are now”, Olhoff said.