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The world is (still) failing on its climate goals (The Economist)

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United nations documents tend to avoid being snarky. It is a mark of deep frustration, then, that the latest edition of the un Environment Programme’s “Emissions Gap” report—released on November 20th—is exactly that. Its title, “Broken Record”, points both to the extreme likelihood that this year will end up being the hottest on record and to the fact that global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising (having grown by 1.2% in 2022). But it is also a waspish reference to the report itself, and reaction to it. It has been published every year since 2010, with every edition outlining the disconnect between what must be done to achieve countries’ climate aims and what they are actually doing. Yet the state of affairs, the authors note, is still characterised by the “failure to stringently reduce emissions” in rich countries and to “prevent further emissions growth” in poor ones.

The numbers—mostly—bear out this gloomy assessment. The Paris agreement of 2015 committed signatories to keeping global temperature rise to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5°C. Yet countries’ “nationally determined contributions” (ndcs)—the emissions-reductions commitments the agreement requires them to make—currently put the world on track for warming of 2.5-2.9°C by 2100. A better outcome is theoretically possible: the report finds that in the “most optimistic scenario” (where all ndcs and net-zero pledges are met), temperature rise could be limited to 2°C. The evidence, though, suggests that taking comfort from that prospect would be optimistic to the point of delusion.



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