Countries have delayed action for too long and need to make deep cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions now. If they do not, they risk missing the agreed targets for limiting climate change, United Nations officials told reporters Tuesday.
Inger Andersen is the head of the U.N. Environmental Program. She made the appeal just days before governments officials head to Madrid for the yearly climate change meeting.
“We need quick wins to reduce emissions as much as possible in 2020,” Andersen said.
Her agency just released its yearly “emissions gap report.” The report showed that the amount of gases going into the atmosphere was the highest ever last year, even though most countries have promised to reduce them.
What actions must be taken?
Scientists believe a 7.6 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions each year for the next ten years would prevent many of the worst outcomes of climate change. Those outcomes include the loss of nearly all coral reefs and most Arctic sea ice.
Even a lower target would require an emissions decrease of 2.7 percent each year between 2020 and 2030, the UNEP said.
Katia Simeonova is with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She told the Geneva news conference, "The world is facing a climate emergency. It cannot be solved by governments alone. Twenty twenty is our last best chance."
The head of the World Meteorological Organization said worldwide temperatures could rise by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years if nothing is done to stop rising emissions.
“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced (that level) was 3 to 5 million years ago," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. He added that at that time, sea levels were as much as 19 meters higher than now.
How important are fossil fuels?
UNEP released a separate report last week that looked at ten fossil-fuel producing countries. Researchers found those governments are planning to produce nearly double the amount of fossil fuels by 2030 than they should to meet the Paris Agreement’s target.
“(What) countries are saying about supply doesn’t (add) up with what they’re saying about reducing emissions,” said report co-author Michael Lazarus. He is a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.
The report includes the United States. The country claims to be reducing emissions, even as its oil and gas businesses are growing. The report also looked at countries that are considered cooperative, like Norway. Norway continues to drill for oil in the North Sea.
Officials appealed to governments that have already set their targets to see if they can do more. They insisted that industries like power, transport, building and shipping can find ways to lower their emissions as well.
Experts agree that the longer countries continue to use fossil fuels, the more a temperature increase will become certain. But the sooner countries take steps to stop depending on gas, coal and oil, the more warming will be prevented in the long term.
The secretary general of the U.N, Antonio Guterres, spoke about the agency’s findings. He urged people to listen to scientists’ warnings and take drastic action. If we do not, he said, we will continue to see deadly heatwaves, storms and pollution.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
The Associated Press and the Reuters news agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
greenhouse gas – n. a gas that contributes to rising temperatures by absorbing radiation, such as carbon dioxide
emissions – n. the production and discharge of something, especially gas or radiation.
gap – n. an unfilled space or interval; a break in continuity.
fossil fuel – n. a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organism