Current and past greenhouse gas emissions that have led to global warming are unequally distributed globally, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Monday, citing India’s example.
Per capita territorial emissions vary significantly across countries since they are more than double the world average of 6.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in Russia and the US, while those in India remain under half of that, the UN body said.
Similarly, historical emissions and contribution to global warming vary significantly across countries and groups of countries, UNEP has said, saying nearly 80% of historical cumulative emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and land use came from the G20 countries, with the largest contributions from China, the US and the European Union, while the least developed countries contributed just 4%.
The US accounts for 4% of the current world population, but has contributed 17% of global warming from 1850 to 2021, including the impact of methane and nitrous oxide emissions. India, in contrast, accounts for 18% of the world population, but has contributed 5% of the warming, the UNEP report said.
Only nine countries have submitted new or updated nationally determined contributed to reduce emissions since last year’s UN climate summit in Egypt, bringing the total number that have been updated since the 2021 Paris climate pact to 149.
“Inequality in consumption-based emissions is also found among and within countries. Globally, the 10% of the population with the highest income accounted for nearly half (48%) of emissions with two-thirds of this group living in developed countries. The bottom 50% of the world population contributed only 12% of total emissions,” according to Broken Record, the 2023 emissions gap report released by UNEP.
As of September 25, 97 nations covering approximately 81% of global greenhouse gas emissions had adopted net-zero pledges either in law (27 countries) or in a policy document (54 countries). All G20 members except Mexico have set net-zero targets, but overall net-zero goals do not inspire confidence, the report said. Net-zero is a target of completely negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity to be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Limited progress has been made on key indicators of confidence in net-zero implementation among G20 members, including legal status, existence and quality of implementation plans and alignment of near-term emissions trajectories, the report pointed out. None of the G20 nations, which include India, are currently reducing emissions at a pace consistent with meeting their net-zero targets, it added.
The UNEP called on all nations to deliver economy-wide, low-carbon development. Coal, oil and gas extracted over the lifetime of producing and planned mines and fields would emit over 3.5 times the carbon budget available to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and almost the entire budget available for 2 degrees of warming, the thresholds agreed upon by all countries in the Paris agreement.
“The low-carbon development transition poses economic and institutional challenges for low and middle-income countries, but also provides significant opportunities. Transitions in such countries can help to provide universal access to energy, lift millions out of poverty and expand strategic industries,” the UNEP report said. “The associated energy growth can be met efficiently and equitably with low-carbon energy as renewables get cheaper, ensuring green jobs and cleaner air.”
International financial assistance will have to be significantly scaled up, with new public and private sources of capital restructured through financing mechanisms for such a transition, the UNEP said.
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