Emissions gap leads to calls for scaled up ambition at Cop28 and phasing out of fossil fuels

‘Our [carbon] pollution levels are pushing us over the edge into catastrophic climate breakdown,’ says Oisín Coghlan, CEO of Friends of the Earth

Global leaders meeting at the upcoming Cop28 summit must agree to ramp up climate actions given the persisting “emissions gap”, indicating the world is facing a temperature rise of 3 degrees this century, according to UN secretary general António Guterres.

The next round of national climate plans will be pivotal, he said in response to the latest UN Environment Programme “emissions gap” report, which sets the agenda for a “global stocktake” assessing shortfalls in implementing the Paris Agreement. Cop28 will include an inventory of countries’ climate plans which will show just how far the world is from meeting Paris Agreement goals.

The response should be immediate when countries gather at Cop28 in Dubai next week, Mr Guterres said, as leaders “must drastically up their game” and their plans must be backed “with the finance, technology, support and partnerships to make them possible”.

Friends of the Earth chief executive, Oisín Coghlan, said: “Today’s report is clear that our pollution levels are pushing us over the edge into catastrophic climate breakdown. Thankfully it’s equally clear how we can turn things around by focusing on immediate emissions reductions this decade and by tackling the elephant in the room at the Cop climate negotiations, fossil fuels.”


He added: “We must break our dependence on dirty fossil fuels as fast as possible. At home that means laying out a path to stop using oil and gas to power our factories and heat our homes. And it means regulating data centres so they don’t colonise our power system and drive up demand for fossil gas. And internationally, Ireland should back calls for a new treaty to phase out fossil fuels.”

“Voluntary initiatives and non-binding commitments can play an important role. But they are no substitute for a global response agreed by all,” Mr Guterres said. “The response to the Global Stocktake must light the fuse to an explosion of ambition in 2025. It must align with what the science tells us is needed. It must set out plans to massively increase ambition and investment in adaptation. It must commit to a surge in finance and co-operation.”

That required national plans with clear 2030 and 2035 targets, he said, “that align with 1.5 degrees, that cover the whole economy, and that plot a course for ending fossil fuels. These plans must provide clear market signals. We need market forces driving down emissions”.

In addition, governments need to put in place policies and regulations to give the private sector the certainty and predictability it desperately needs, he believed. “And the Global Stocktake response must be clear that credible action from the private sector is vital.”

Companies need to produce comprehensive transition plans with “no more greenwashing. No more foot dragging”.

Countries must commit to triple renewables capacity, double energy efficiency and bring clean power to all, by 2030, Mr Guterres said in supporting an EU proposal. “And they must also commit to phasing out fossil fuels, with a clear time frame aligned to the 1.5-degree limit. Otherwise, we’re simply inflating the lifeboats while breaking the oars.”

The recent climate statement between China and the US was a positive first step on co-operation but much more needs to be done, Mr Guterres said. “And it depends on restoring trust between developed and developing countries, which has been badly damaged by broken promises and sluggish action.”

“This report underlines once again that the science is clear – our global carbon budget is shrinking year-on-year and time is rapidly running out if we want to meet the 1.5 or 2 degree Paris Agreement targets. This is a shared problem requiring co-ordinated action from all countries to rapidly reduce emissions and decarbonise its economy much faster than they are at present,” said Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter, a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the global carbon budget.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times