Closing the emission gap between the Paris goals and national policies

We know there is a global emission gap between current policies, nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and the Paris Agreement goal to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2 °C, but how can we close this gap? The policy brief ‘Beyond the emission gap’ by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency describes the main findings from the ‘global stocktake’ dynamic web tool that is part of the CD-LINKS project, and provides guidance on how to close the gap.

The ‘global stocktake’ tool is a dynamic web tool that goes beyond indicating the global emission gap by providing more details on national greenhouse gas emissions, and providing indicators that give guidance for the necessary steps in terms of energy use, policy coverage and investments. In addition, it shows synergies with sustainable development goals (SDGs), such as for air pollution and forest coverage. This policy brief highlights the main conclusions drawn on the basis of this tool, and which may prove helpful for policymakers in closing the emissions gap.

Insights into national emission gaps, individual gas emissions and carbon budgets provide guidance

Individual emission gaps for China, the United States, the European Union and India are significant, if climate policy would be cost-optimally implemented. But, alternative views of what would be a fair distribution of global emission reductions among various countries and regions could give very different results. Furthermore, carbon budgets show the remaining cumulative emissions that can be emitted while staying below 2 °C or 1.5°C temperature increase, this century. They are not linked to a specific year by which reductions need to have occurred. The global carbon budget that is consistent with the 2 °C limit will be depleted around 2035 under current policies and NDCs (see the figure below). These carbon budgets can also be applied at the national level, but this again depends on which effort-sharing approach is used.


Indicators from the stocktaking tool that go beyond greenhouse gas emissions provide further insight

The ‘global stocktake’ tool includes indicators that were selected to show how current economic, financial and energy systems need to be changed if we are to achieve the Paris goals. Carbon intensity (CO2/GDP) represents economic efficiency, and this needs to improve much faster than historical rates, in order to accomplish the Paris goals. As full decarbonisation of the energy system is necessary, the share of zero-carbon technologies in the electricity sectors of the United States and China needs to increase to around 75%. Changes in total investment and the share of low-carbon investments point to a turnaround in the financial world, as low-carbon energy investments need to grow to around 70%, by 2050. Climate policies also help in decreasing air pollution or increasing forest coverage, but do so to a considerable extent only under well below 2 °C scenarios.

This policy brief is written as part of the CD-LINKS project that explores the complex interplay between climate action and development, from both a global and national level. Results from nine integrated assessment models from various institutes that participated in this project were used in the ‘global stocktake’ tool and this policy brief, among which PBL’s IMAGE model. More details can be found on


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Energy and Climate Change

We report on the progress made with regard to the climate and energy transition, analysing the current and future impact of policy on greenhouse gas emission reduction and exploring various options for achieving the reduction targets.

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