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World may breach Paris climate target

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-11-18 09:34

There is a 50 percent chance that the 1.5 degree Celsius target laid out in the Paris Agreement will be breached in just nine years' time, a new report has found.

This week the Global Carbon Budget 2022 was released, as United Nations member states met at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt to negotiate action on global warming.

At a previous COP in Paris seven years ago, world leaders collectively agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius this century. But global emissions have continued to rise, and the report says there are even odds that the target will be missed in less than a decade if emissions remain at 2022 levels.

"Leaders meeting at COP27 will have to take meaningful action if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming close to 1.5 degrees," said Pierre Friedlingstein, a professor of mathematical modeling and climate systems at Exeter University, who led the study.

The report estimates that total global CO2 emissions by the end of 2022 will reach 40.6 billion tons, an increase of 1.7 percent from last year. This is driven by fossil fuel CO2 emissions, which are projected to rise by 1 percent compared to 2021 levels, reaching 36.6 billion tons.

Friedlingstein said there were some "positive signs" in the study. Emissions from China are expected to fall by 0.9 percent this year, and European Union emissions are also tipped to decrease by 0.8 percent.

However, major emitters the United States and India are predicted to increase by 1.5 percent and 6 percent respectively by the end of the year.

Corinne Le Quere, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia who contributed to the study, described "turbulent emissions patterns" this year as a result of the pandemic and the energy crisis. Several nations in Europe have sought to ramp up domestic fossil fuel production and exploration in order to combat supply issues brought about by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"We are at a turning point and must not allow world events to distract us from the urgent and sustained need to cut our emissions to stabilize the global climate and reduce cascading risks," said Le Quere. "If governments respond by turbocharging clean energy investments and planting, not cutting, trees, global emissions could rapidly start to fall."

Study authors said for the world to reach net-zero by 2050, CO2 emissions would need to drop by 1.4 billion tons each year, comparable to the observed fall in 2020 resulting from COVID-19 lockdowns, highlighting the scale of the action required.

Vanesa Castan Broto, a climate scientist at the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the report, described the findings overall as "very bleak" but highlighted some "positive aspects" in the data.

"They show that progress on the path to zero carbon is possible in regions such as China and the EU," she said. "However, data from countries such as the US are less optimistic and show the need, once again, for a global alliance to tackle one of the biggest problems of our generation."

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