World on ‘catastrophic’ path to 2.7C warming, UN chief warns

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has warned that a failure to cut global emissions is setting the world on a “catastrophic” path to 2.7 degrees Celsius heating.

A UN report on 191 countries’ emissions promises found that they would not meet the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit human-caused global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

Instead, it showed “the world is on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7-degrees of heating”, Guterres said in a statement on Friday, just weeks before crunch talks at the COP26 summit in November aimed at securing more ambitious climate action.

The new UN analysis said that under countries’ current pledges, global emissions would be 16 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 – far off the 45 percent reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous climate change.

Without more ambitious commitments, global temperatures could hit 2.7C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, the UN said.

That would unleash far more devastating effects than those already battering countries around the world, from fatal floods to wildfires and storms.

“Overall greenhouse gas emission numbers are moving in the wrong direction,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said. “It’s not enough, what we have on the table.”

Espinosa said she had received “very positive signals” in talks with some countries that new commitments would arrive before the COP26 summit in Glasgow, without naming any.

The United States and the 27-country European Union – the world’s second and third-biggest emitters after China – were among those to set tougher emissions-cutting targets this year.

Nations responsible for about half the world’s emissions have yet to do so. China, India and Saudi Arabia are among them.

Brazil and Mexico submitted updated pledges that analysts said would cause higher emissions than those countries’ previous targets.

COP26 President Alok Sharma said that “without action from all countries, especially the biggest economies, these efforts risk being in vain”.

Countries including India have said they cannot cut emissions faster unless they receive more support from rich nations to invest in low-carbon energy and industries.

So far, promised support has not arrived. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said on Friday it was likely that wealthy countries missed a goal to contribute $100bn in 2020 to help developing nations cope with climate change.

The UN said it would publish another report on October 25, assessing any new climate pledges countries make before October 12.

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