UN calls for push to cut greenhouse gas levels to avoid climate chaos

Countries must make an unprecedented effort to cut their levels of greenhouse gases in the next decade to avoid climate chaos, the United Nations has warned, as it emerged that emissions hit a new high last year.

Carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, also accounting for deforestation, rose to more than 55 gigatonnes, and have risen on average by 1.5% a year for the past decade, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) annual emissions gap report.

Global emissions must fall by 7.6% every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5C ceiling on temperature rises that scientists say is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences. The only time in recent history when emissions have fallen in any country at a similar rate came during the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the financial crisis and recession, emissions in the US and Japan fell briefly by about 6% but soon rebounded.

However, technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles are now available, and increasingly cheap, which could enable deep cuts in carbon without jeopardizing economic growth.

Without such urgent action the world’s fate would be sealed within the next few years as carbon would rise to such a level as to make dangerous levels of warming inevitable. “We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020, then stronger [commitments under the Paris agreement] to kickstart the major transformations of economies and societies. We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP.

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