World facing climate catastrophe and 'falling short' of targets, says UN report

The world was given a stark warning on Tuesday, as ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar reports

International efforts to tackle climate change currently "fall far short" of what is needed to stop a temperature rise that could have catastrophic consequences, a UN report has said.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its Emissions Gap report on Tuesday, ahead of the COP26 climate summit which begins in Glasgow on Sunday.

It concluded that climate change measures taken by individual countries - as well as other international climate agreements - will not be enough to prevent a 2.7°C temperature rise this century.

Scientists have said it is vital we limit a global temperature rise to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, such as people losing their homes due to sea level rises, and droughts.

Inger Andersen, director of UNEP, said: “Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem".

Mr Andersen said we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions if we want to to stand a chance of limiting the most catastrophic effects of global warming, warning: "The clock is ticking loudly.”

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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Climate change makes heatwaves and droughts more likely Credit: John Giles/PA

According to the report, countries pledging net zero carbon emissions could make big differences. However, it called current net zero plans "vague" and encouraged nations to back-up these pledges in law.

The report also found that most countries missed the opportunity to build back greener after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Global carbon and non-carbon emissions are expected to rise to a level only just lower than the record highs of 2019, the report said. This is despite a 5.4% drop in CO2 emissions in 2020, due to the pandemic.

In response to the report, Myles Allen, a professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, said there is "no appetite" around the world to reduce fossil fuel consumption to levels that would allow us to meet global climate commitments. “Insanity is keeping doing the same thing in the hope of getting a different outcome. On current progress, we’ll close the 2030 Emissions Gap sometime in the 2080s," Prof Allen said.

The report sets the tone for the COP summit in Glasgow - what does this mean for world leaders?

He added that the world needs to dispose of more carbon dioxide safely and underground, instead of "fly-tipping" CO2 into the atmosphere.

"We currently dispose of less than 0.1% of the carbon dioxide we generate: this needs to be at 10% by 2030 to be on track for 100% by 2050", he said.

"This is the gap that matters, and they won’t even be talking about it in Glasgow."