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The Path to Climate Neutrality: UNEP Gap Report


The Path to Climate Neutrality: UNEP Gap Report

The Path to Climate Neutrality: UNEP Gap Report
Photo credit: UNEP

The UN’s top climate official on 19 November 2014 welcomed a report that underlines how the world can keep a global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said:

“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 global emissions.

“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, released on 19 November 2014 by the UN Environment programme (UNEP) in advance of the UN’s next climate conference in Lima, Peru sets out the pathways required to avoid dangerous climate change.

Three Stages to Success

The new report clearly states that to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius limit, global emissions need to:

  • turn the corner around 2020 and be heading downward by 2030. By 2030, global emissions should be 15% or lower than in 2010.

  • be at least 50% lower than 2010 by 2050.

  • reach net zero sometime in the second half of the century, with any remaining emissions offset by re-afforestation and other means.

The UNEP Gap Report also focuses on the urgency to act now to achieve ever higher ambition before 2020.

This year’s edition of the Emissions Gap Report focusses on opportunities from scaled up action on energy efficiency. These actions range from appliances, lighting standards and labeling to tighter building codes and vehicle fuel standards.

The report suggests that improved energy efficiencyhas the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 3 to 7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2 e) a year.

Other key findings of the report underline the wider, sustainable development imperative of addressing climate change.

Less Pollution, Better Health, Especially in Developing Countries

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that 7 million people die prematurely each year from indoor & outdoor air pollution, mostly in developing countries.

Energy efficiency improvements reduce fossil fuel use and thereby also air pollution emissions, and save lives. One study states that 100,000 premature deaths could be avoided every year by 2030 in the US, the EU, India, Brazil, China and Mexico.

Further benefits:

  • Greater access to energy: Improving energy efficiency lowers energy costs and makes energy more accessible to poor and middle-class households.

  • Jobs: Energy efficiency projects provide millions of jobs worldwide with estimates ranging up to 7 million people through an acceleration of energy efficiency.

  • Increased industrial productivity: Improving energy use leads to lower energy use per unit of output which extends the life-time of equipment, reduces waste disposal costs, and lowers maintenance.

“To maximize benefits and ensure a safer world, we can and must use the powerful combination of short and medium term efforts to reduce emissions and increase resilience, together with a clear vision of our collective long term destination,” said Ms. Figueres.


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