Foreword by Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director United Nations Environment Programme
“The world is at last beginning to tackle its fossil fuel addiction. Coal is no longer competitive, and wind farms and solar installations are gathering pace – in Australia, northern Europe, China, India and elsewhere. Electric mobility and ride sharing are redefining transport, especially in cities tired of breathing dirty air. Huge strides in energy efficiency are being made.
The problem, as the science here is telling us, is that we’re not making the change nearly as quickly as we need to. This is of course not new – it’s an almost carbon copy of what we were told last year, and the years before that. But what we do have is yet more compelling science, and something that adds to that provided by the 1.5 degree report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The message is clear: we need to make an almost existential change, the solutions are there, and we have no excuse. And yes, it is still possible to bridge the emissions gap to keep global warming below 2°C. However, the opportunity to bridge the 1.5°C gap is dwindling. We can also see that the kind of unprecedented action we urgently need is not happening yet: in fact, global CO2 emissions did increase in 2017 after a few years of stagnation.
Even if the nations of the world live up to their current commitments, that will likely result in global warming of around 3°C by the end of the century. That’s a number that would be catastrophic – and fatal for many small island states and coastal areas. The fact is that we are already seeing climate change play out in front of us. From the Caribbean superstorms to droughts in the Horn of Africa, or record temperatures and wildfires, our planet is already changing.
Closing the Emissions Gap means upping our ambition. Net zero must become the new mantra, and we must pursue this goal with confidence. After all, the science and data also show us that reducing and offsetting emissions does not mean cutting growth. Quite the contrary.
The science also shows emission reduction potential from other actors such as regional and local governments and businesses – is very large. That means that initiatives like the C40 cities coalition must be commended and supported. So too must action to improve air quality in cities – a double win that spares both children from the trauma of asthma and tackles some of the root causes of other emissions.
Current impacts of actions by other actors are still limited and not well enough documented, but we need to look for action in all corners of the modern world.
We can also see that fiscal policies provide a huge opportunity to reduce future emissions but need to be designed and implemented carefully to deliver desired results without creating economic and social issues. The space for policies to boost innovation and open new markets for emerging technologies and practices also has significant mitigation potential.
The key is to understand we are not powerless in the face of climate change. The science may be frightening, but the solutions are clear. The only missing link is leadership.”