Analysis of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report

By Wang Chenyu and Hong Ruichen

At last years COP summit in Madrid the emissions gap and the inadequacy of the national targets were widely discussed. And rightly so. Even if the current national contribution targets are fully implemented, the global temperature increase may reach or exceed 3.2 °C at the end of this century. Therefore, the current independent contribution target submitted by each country must be strengthened. This article summarizes the report and extracts the directions that need to be paid attention to in the future to reduce the emission gap.


GHG emissions have risen at a rate of 1.5 per cent per year in the last decade, stabilizing only briefly between 2014 and 2016. Total GHG emissions, including from land-use change, reached a record high of 55.3 GtCO2e in 2018.

There is no sign of GHG emissions peaking in the next few years; every year of postponed peaking means that deeper and faster cuts will be required. By 2030, emissions would need to be 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2018 to put the world on the least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to below 2 ̊C and 1.5°C respectively.

Economic growth has been much stronger in non-OECD members, growing at over 4.5 percent per year in the last decade compared with 2 percent per year in OECD members. Since OECD and non-OECD members have had similar declines in the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity, stronger economic growth means that primary energy use has increased much faster in non-OECD members (2.8 percent our year) than in OECD members (0.3 percent per year.

It is evident that China now has per capita emissions in the same range as the European Union (EU) and is almost at a similar level to Japan.

Prospects and solutions

All lot of opportunities for reducing emissions gaps over the past decade have been wasted, but we have also seen technological advances that have lain a solid foundation for bigger ambitions and accelerated action. It is still possible to reduce the emission gap, but it needs various emission reduction programs and policy support, the promotion of long-term transformation and innovation, and a careful management of stakeholders whose interests have been affected during the transition. It is required that all stakeholders at all levels and departments adopt consistent climate action.

(1) Decarbonization at the energy and transportation levels is the key to transformation

Carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels in the energy and industrial sectors are a major part of total greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand is expected to increase by about 30% by 2040. Therefore, the decarbonization of energy use and the decarbonization of transportation are key to bridging the emissions gap. Energy efficiency must be improved across the board, focusing on heating and cooling, appliances and lighting, industrial motors and transportation, while increasing the supply of renewable energy and building a smarter, more flexible power grid. Avoid and reduce the need for motorized transportation in the transportation sector, shift to more environmentally friendly travel modes and increase the energy efficiency of transportation methods.

(2) Natural-based solutions are a good path to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

Natural based solution systems include forest growth, agricultural and food systems adaption, marine and coastal ecosystems expansion.

The 2012 and 2015 Emissions Gap Reports assess best practices and policies to curb deforestation, while the 2017 Emissions Gap Report highlights four practices with unique economic potential that can extract reduce emissions by 5 billion tons of CO2e a year. These four approaches are the establishment of new protected areas, the use of command-and-control measures, and the formulation, implementation and supervision of forest conversion regulations, which may include Invest in existing protected areas to prevent biological invasion; use economic means to protect ecosystems, such as taxation, subsidies, and ecosystem payment services; develop policies to stop deforestation, including sectoral policies, institutional frameworks, governance structures, and agricultural subsidies.

(3) The role of climate actors at the non-state level should not be ignored

Since 2015, the Emissions Gap Report has assessed the role of climate action at the non-state level, while the 2018 report focused specifically on non-state and sub-local actors. The 2018 report shows that the number of non-governmental actors involved in climate action is rapidly increasing, with more than 7,000 cities from 133 countries and 245 regions from 42 countries, and more than 6,000 companies with revenues of more than $ 36 trillion Commitment to action to mitigate climate change. More and more companies and regions around the world are beginning to pay attention to climate change, and participants from many different countries and different fields have participated in international cooperation initiatives.

Although it is challenging to assess the emission reduction potential of these non-national participants, and the overlap between their emission reduction effectiveness and national action must be considered, and the current data are insufficiently documented to allow a systematic assessment, the Emissions Gap Report still considers the potential to be huge and cannot be ignored.

(4) In order to ensure long-term carbon neutrality, innovative solutions are needed

Carbon dioxide removal technology is one of the directions that need to be considered in future technological innovation. The Emissions Gap Report 2017 evaluated various options for removing carbon dioxide. The technology to remove carbon dioxide from the air has been used for many years, mainly in the submarine, aerospace and medical fields. Until recently, this type of technology was considered a global carbon scavenger. This technology uses very little land or water, does not emit other greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, and can be used for a long time. Some methods produce materials that can be used for commercial purposes, such as cement. However, such methods are very expensive, and may have unknown side effects, and the impact on society is uncertain. Therefore, most of them have not been implemented on a large scale and lack technical feasibility. It is recommended to take precautionary measures, assess the pros and cons, and then implement a full deployment.

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