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Emissions from industry, farms and forests endanger Paris climate goals

  • Published at 10:03 pm November 20th, 2020
Climate Change coal
File photo: Smoke and steam billows from PGE's Belchatow power station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant on December 5, 2018 Reuters

Emissions from agriculture are predicted to increase by nearly a third between 2017 and 2050

Many parts of the global economy, especially agriculture and the cement and steel industries, are heading in the wrong direction or cleaning up their act far too slowly to limit global warming to 1.5°C, researchers warned on Thursday.

At this rate, goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement - aimed at heading off the worst impacts of wild weather and rising seas by curbing temperature rise - will not be met, said a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and ClimateWorks Foundation.

Planet-heating emissions need to drop by half by 2030 and fall to net-zero by 2050 to meet the Paris pact target of keeping warming “well below” 2°C and ideally to 1.5°C, it noted.

“This report makes clear that we need to dramatically step up action across all economic sectors globally, if we want a stable climate future,” said Surabi Menon, vice president of global intelligence at the US-based ClimateWorks Foundation.

The report examined global and country-level progress on climate action and commitments across six sectors: power, buildings, industry, transport, forests and agriculture.

Emissions from cement and steel manufacturing make up nearly half of all industrial emissions worldwide, it said.

To meet climate goals, cement emissions would need to drop by 85% to 91% globally and steel emissions by 93% to 100% by 2050, according to estimates in the report.

In addition, little progress has been made on curbing emissions from agricultural production, which grew 3% from 2012 to 2017, the report noted.

Emissions from agriculture are predicted to increase by nearly a third between 2017 and 2050.

But they would need to fall 22% by 2030 and nearly 40% by 2050 compared to 2017 levels, to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, according to the report.

Efforts to halt deforestation, particularly in tropical regions, are also failing, said report co-author Katie Lebling.

“Deforestation is increasing - and it should be decreasing,” Lebling, an associate at WRI’s climate program, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The main drivers are clearing of trees to make way for soy and palm oil production and cattle-ranching, she said.

In Southeast Asia, 80% of tree-cover loss is linked to production of commodities, while in Latin America the figure is nearly 60%, she said.

Clean energy

To get on track to meet emissions reduction targets by 2030 and 2050, growth in renewable energy like solar and wind must be stepped up by a factor of five while coal without carbon-capture technology needs to be phased out by 2040, researchers said.

Cleaner public transport in cities is on the rise, notably in China and Norway, but electric vehicles still make up only about 1% of the global passenger vehicle stock, it noted.

Countries need to accelerate sales of electric vehicles 12 times faster by 2030 than their current rate, it added.

“The decisions countries make in the lead up to the COP26 UN climate negotiations next year could either steer us to a safer and more resilient future or greatly increase the likelihood of deadly and costly climate impacts such as heat waves, drought, storms and other extreme weather events,” said Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at WRI.

Investment must increase significantly to transform energy and transport systems and protect forests, if emissions are to be halved by 2030, the report said.

Between $1.6 and $3.8 trillion a year will be needed through 2050 to decarbonize the energy system alone, it noted.

“Especially for developing countries, there needs to be a lot more climate finance coming from developed countries to support these transformations, because they are the biggest contributors to the problem,” said Lebling.


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