Climate Action Fast Facts


Check here for regularly updated facts and findings on climate and its links to the economy, social issues, nature and more.

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  1. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a record 260 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was added globally in 2020, beating the previous record by almost 50 per cent.
  2. Although most new renewable energy capacity installations have been made in developing countries in the last two years, developed countries had around four times more capacity per capita than developing countries in 2019.
  3. In 2018, the share of renewable energy in total energy consumption amounted to 17.1 per cent, with the largest increase in the share of renewables for electricity. The transport and heating sectors show much slower or no progress.
  4. More than 80 per cent of all new electricity capacity added in 2020 was renewable with solar and wind accounting for 91 per cent. Investment in offshore wind hit its highest level ever at $29.9 billion.
  5. In 2018, international public financial flows to developing countries in support of clean energy amounted to $14 billion, a 35 per cent decrease from an all-time high of $21.9 billion in 2017.
  6. Nations and corporations have made clean energy commitments for the next decade that would amount to 826 gigawatts of new non-hydro renewable power capacity by 2030, at a likely cost of around $1 trillion. Yet these commitments fall far short of what is needed to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C under the Paris Agreement.
  7. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global energy use fell by 4 per cent in 2020, and carbon dioxide emissions declined by almost 6 per cent in 2020. But emissions have returned to their upwards trajectory and in December 2020 were about 2 per cent higher than in 2019, before the pandemic.
  8. Oil for mobility and aviation represents nearly 60 per cent of global oil demand.
  9. More than half of the renewable capacity added in 2019 achieved lower electricity costs than new coal. New solar and wind projects are undercutting the cheapest existing coal-fired plants.
  10. Solar and wind power costs have continued to fall with solar photovoltaics showings the sharpest cost decline over 2010-2019 at 82 per cent, followed by concentrated solar power at 47 per cent, onshore wind at 40 per cent and offshore wind at 29 per cent.


Sources: IRENA (1), IEA and others (2, 3, 5), IRENA (4), UNEP (6), IEA (7), IEA (8), IRENA (9, 10)


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  1. The earth is now 1.2°C warmer than it was in the late 1800s. We are not on track to meet agreed targets to keep global temperature from exceeding 1.5°C above pre- industrial levels.
  2. 2015-2019 were the five warmest years on record while 2010-2019 was the warmest decade on record.
  3. On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, temperature is expected to increase by 3-5°C by the end of century.
  4. In 2019, greenhouse gas concentrations reached new highs. Carbon dioxide levels are 148 per cent of preindustrial levels.
  5. Greenhouse gas concentrations, already at their highest levels in 3 million years, have continued to rise.
  6. Since the mid-1980s, Arctic surface air temperatures have warmed at least twice as fast as the global average, while sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet and glaciers have declined over the same period and permafrost temperatures have increased.
  7. To limit climate change to 2°C, emissions must drop 7.6 per cent per year from 2020 to 2030 for the 1.5°C goal and 2.7 per cent per year for the 2°C goal.
  8. The emissions gap in 2030, or the difference between necessary carbon dioxide reduction and current trends, is estimated at 12-15 gigatons carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e) to limit global warming to below 2°C. For the 1.5°C goal, the gap is estimated at 29-32 Gt CO2e, roughly equivalent to the combined emissions of the six largest emitters.
  9. To follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6 per cent per year between 2020 and 2030. Countries are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2 per cent, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit.


Sources: WMO (1, 3, 5, 8, 9), WMO (2, 4, 6), UNEP (7)


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  1. A green transition will create 25 million more jobs by 2030, far more than the 7 million that could be lost. Five million people facing job losses will find jobs in the same occupation in another industry within the same country.
  2. If cities in 21 emerging markets prioritize climate-smart growth in their recovery plans, they stand to gain as much as $7 trillion in investments and could create 144 million new jobs by 2030.
  3. Under certain conditions, jobs created by the renewable energy industry could total 42 million worldwide by 2050 – more than enough to offset jobs lost in fossil fuel industries, with more people able to find employment in manufacturing, installing, operating and maintaining renewable energy systems.
  4. Jobs in renewable energy reached 11.5 million globally in 2019.
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an extraordinary socioeconomic crisis throughout the world, resulting in a 4.3 percent contraction of world GDP, the first increase in extreme poverty since 1998 and the loss of the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs relative to the level in 2019.
  6. Heat stress could reduce total working hours worldwide by 2.2 per cent – a productivity loss equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs — and could cut global gross domestic product by $2.4 trillion in 2030.
  7. A circular economy, based on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, could create around 6 million new jobs in recycling and waste management.
  8. Solar photovoltaic industries created some 3.8 million jobs in 2019. Other large generators of new jobs in renewable energy were biofuels at 2.5 million jobs, hydropower at close to 2 million jobs and wind at 1.2 million jobs.
  9. Jobs in renewables are more gender balanced than in the broader energy field, with women holding 32 per cent of the total in 2019. In fossil fuels, they have only 21 per cent.


Sources: ILO (1), World Bank (2), IRENA (3), IRENA (4, 8, 9), UN (5), ILO (6), ILO (7)


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  1. Climate action is not a budget buster or economy-wrecker. Shifting to a green economy could yield a direct economic gain of $26 trillion through 2030 compared with business-as-usual. This could produce over 65 million new low-carbon jobs.
  2. Significant investment in infrastructure is needed over the next 15 years, around $90 trillion by 2030. New infrastructure must be compatible with climate goals.
  3. Investing in resilient infrastructure in developing countries could deliver $4.2 trillion over its lifetime. An investment of $1 in resilient infrastructure, on average, yields $4 in benefits.
  4. More compact, connected and coordinated cities are worth up to $17 trillion in economic savings by 2050 and will stimulate economic growth by improving access to jobs and housing.
  5. Sustainable agriculture and strong forest protection could generate over $2 trillion per year of economic benefits, create millions of jobs and improve food security, while delivering over a third of the climate change solution.
  6. Doubling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 could save the global economy between $1.2 and $4.2 trillion each year, largely due to a massive reduction in costs from pollution.
  7. Putting a price on carbon and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies could raise $2.8 trillion that could be reinvested in public priorities.
  8. In 2020, G20 governments committed $233 billion to activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption, compared with $146 billion to renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon alternatives such as cycling and pedestrian systems.
  9. Better water management could improve economic growth rates in some regions by up to 6 per cent.
  10. The costs of adapting to climate change in developing economies may be up to $300 billion by 2030. But investing in resilience may cut post-disaster intervention costs by at least half.


Sources: New Climate Economy (1, 2, 4-7), World Bank (3), UNEP and others (8), World Bank (9), IMF (10)


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  1. Healthy ecosystems can provide 37 per cent of the mitigation needed to limit global temperature rise. Damaged ecosystems release carbon instead of storing it.
  2. Approximately 25 per cent of the globe’s greenhouse gas emissions come from land clearing, crop production and fertilization, with animal-based food contributing 75 per cent of that.
  3. With global warming of 1.5°C to 2°C , the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink dramatically. Changes in ranges can adversely affect species conservation, greatly increase local species turnover and substantially increase the risk of global extinctions.
  4. Climate change has been linked to greater risks from zoonotic diseases. For some contagions, increases in temperatures or rainfall can dramatically affect the life cycles of either the pathogen or its vector – the intermediate species that spreads the disease from the original host to humans.
  5. Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to climate change and are projected to decline to 10-30 per cent of former cover at 1.5°C warming and to less than 1 per cent of former cover at 2°C warming.
  6. More than 80 per cent of the human diet is provided by plants. Only three cereal crops – rice, maize and wheat – provide 60 per cent of energy intake.
  7. Fish provide 20 per cent of animal protein to about 3 billion people.
  8. Roughly 500 million people live in areas that experience desertification. Drylands and areas undergoing desertification are more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events including droughts, heatwaves and dust storms.
  9. Up to 80 per cent of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant-‐based medicines for basic health care.
  10. Less than 1 per cent of total land is used for mining, but the industry has significantly negative impacts on biodiversity, emissions, water quality and human health.
  11. The $345 billion provided as global subsidies for fossil fuels results in $5 trillion in overall costs, including in terms of the deterioration of nature.


Sources: UNFCCC (1), UN (1, 6, 7, 9), UNEP and others (4), IPBES (2, 3, 5, 10, 11), IPCC (8)


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  1. 1. Public climate finance, including $100 billion that developed countries have agreed to provide to developing countries each year, supports critical infrastructure for adaptation, resilience and the new renewable energy-based economy.
  2. 2. Based on the most recent assessment conducted by developed countries, total climate finance counting towards the $100 billion commitment continues to fall short, reaching $78.9 billion in 2018.
  3. 3. Although adaptation finance increased more rapidly between 2016-2018, its overall share of total public finance was only 21 percent in 2020. Adaptation costs for developing countries may be in the range of $140 billion to $300 billion per year by 2030, and $280 billion to $500 billion annually by 2050.
  4. 4. Private finance could provide the biggest pool of capital. If sufficient international public climate finance is deployed to mobilize private resources, it will be possible to move from the billions to the trillions required.
  5. 5. Over 160 firms with $70 trillion in assets have joined forces to steer the global economy towards net-zero emissions and deliver Paris Agreement goals.
  6. 6. The combined global fiscal response to the pandemic was $18 trillion as of March 2021. The same decisiveness is imperative in the response to the climate crisis.
  7. 7. COVID-19 recovery packages have not been green, by and large, despite general public support for a green recovery. In the Group of 20 countries, $250 billion has been directed to fossil fuels as opposed to only $146 billion to clean energy.
  8. 8. The severe fiscal impacts of COVID-19 limit the ability of many developing countries to invest in recovery as well as climate action. The pandemic pushed half of low-income and least developed countries into debt distress or high risk of it. While some debt relief is available for 34 countries at risk of default, 9 countries are not eligible. They include small island developing States with acute climate vulnerabilities.
  9. 9. Needed infrastructure investment is around $90 trillion by 2030; new infrastructure must be compatible with climate goals. Investing in resilient infrastructure in developing countries could deliver $4.2 trillion over the lifetime of new infrastructure. An investment of $1, on average, yields $4 in benefits.
  10. 10. Switching to a clean economy could raise $2.8 trillion through carbon price revenues and the redirection of fossil fuel subsidies to public investments.


Sources: UN 2020 (1-4, 7), UN Climate Action (5), UN 2021 (6, 8), World Bank (9, 10)


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