19 November 2014 – The world must become carbon-neutral by the mid to late century if the average rise in global temperature is to be kept within the threshold that scientists predict would avert the worst impacts of climate change, a report by the UN Environment Programme concluded.

“The best estimate is that global carbon neutrality is reached between 2055 and 2070 in order to have a likely chance of staying within the 2 degree C limit,” the 88-page “Emissions Gap Report 2014” concluded.

It notes that carbon dioxide is but one of the so-called greenhouse gases known to cause global temperatures to rise. Others – such as methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons – would also have to be cut.

“It has been estimated that global total greenhouse gas emissions will need to reach net zero sometime between 2080 and 2100,” adds the report, which was produced by 38 scientists from 22 research groups in 14 countries and funded by the German government.

The report, the fifth in a series, notes that actions taken now would reduce the need to take more extreme actions later to stay within the limit beyond which more severe and in some cases irreversible climate changes would occur.

Delaying stringent action until 2030 would cut the likelihood of meeting the 2 degree Celsius target to 50 per cent or less, it says.

Despite voluntary pledges made by more than 90 countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, “the associated ’gap’ in required emission reductions is growing, not closing,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director.

Since 1990, emissions have increased by more than 45 per cent and are still on an upward trajectory. “It is clear that global emissions are not expected to peak unless additional emission reduction policies are introduced,” it says.

The report focuses on a trend toward greater energy efficiency as contributing to economic growth and social development by boosting economic output, employment and energy security.

It cites actions already taken in the manufacture of appliances, lighting standards and labelling as well as tighter building codes and improved vehicle fuel standards.

The movement toward energy efficiency has side benefits, the report notes, such as cutting air pollution and its associated health risks.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres lauded the report as a reality check.

“This important report underscores the reality that at some point in the second half of the century we need to have achieved climate neutrality – or as some term it zero net or net zero – in terms of overall emissions,” she said.

“The report also emphasizes the wider important contributions that can be made to local and national sustainable development goals, if climate change is effectively addressed.”

The report was published less than two months after more than 100 world leaders addressed the Climate Summit at the UN in New York and less than two weeks before the UN Conference on Climate Change is to open in Lima, Peru.

Participants are expected to emerge from the 10-day meeting with a draft agreement on actions to avert the worst impacts of climate change to be passed in December 2015 in Paris.

The Executive Summary of the report is available at: http://bit.ly/1u9FOH6

The Emissions Gap Report 2014 assesses a vast amount of scientific literature on climate change mitigation, including scenarios from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The 2014 Report will be launched in Washington D.C., Wednesday, 19 November 2014, as well as in Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Mexico City and New Delhi where parallel launch events are organized. Visit http://www.unep.org

The Emissions Gap Report 2014 is available at: http://bit.ly/1uHDexr