The Emissions Gap Report: Are the Copenhagen Accord Pledges Sufficient to Limit Global Warming to 2 °C or 1.5 °C?

23-11-2010 | Publication

It is estimated that, in order to have a likely chance (over 66%) of limiting global mean temperature increase to 2 °C, annual greenhouse gas emissions need to stay around 44 gigatonnes, by 2020. If all countries fully adhere to the pledges they made in Copenhagen, annual emissions could be reduced from 56 to 49 gigatonnes leaving a gap of around 5 gigatonnes. These are some of the findings in a new report compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to which the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has also contributed.

UNEP report: Gap of 5 gigatonnes between Copenhagen Agreement and 2 °C target

Key findings

  • It is estimated that, in order to have a ‘likely’ and cost-effective chance of limiting temperature increases to two degrees Celsius or below, over the 21st century, global emissions will need to peak within the next 10 years, and to be around 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020.
  • Under a business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of greenhouse gases could be around 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020. As a point of reference, global emissions were estimated at around 48 gigatonnes in 2009;
  • Fully implementing the pledges and intentions associated with the Copenhagen Accord could, in the best case, cut emissions to around 49 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020;
  • This would leave a gap of around 5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent that needs to be bridged over the coming decade — an amount equal to the emissions from all the world’s cars, buses and trucks of 2005;
  • In the worst case identified in the report — where countries follow their lowest ambitions and accounting rules set by negotiators are lax rather than strict — emissions could be as high as 53 gigatonnes by 2020, only slightly lower than business-as-usual projections.

More information on the UNEP site

Related PBL information