Emission scenarios analyzed in the report and consistent with a "likely" chance of meeting the 2°C target have a peak before 2020, and have emission levels in 2020 of about 44 GtCO2e (range: 41-47 GtCO2e). However, the report, which has involved 55 scientists from more than 20 countries, warns that if no swift action is taken by nations, emissions are likely to be at 58 gigatonnes (Gt) in eight years' time. This will leave a gap that is now bigger than it was in earlier UNEP assessments of 2010 and 2011, and is in part, as a result of projected economic growth in key developing economies and a phenomenon known as "double counting" of emission offsets. Previous assessment reports have underlined that emissions need to be on average at around 44 Gt or less in 2020 to lay the path for the even bigger reductions needed at a cost that is manageable.
The 2012 Report points out that even if the most ambitious level of pledges and commitments were implemented by all countries -- and under the strictest set of rules -- there will now be a gap of 8 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2020. This is 2 Gt higher than last year's assessment with yet another year passing by. Preliminary economic assessments, highlighted in the new report, estimate that inaction will trigger costs likely to be at least 10 to 15 per cent higher after 2020 if the needed emission reductions are delayed into the following decades.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director said, "There are two realities encapsulated in this report -- that bridging the gap remains do-able with existing technologies and policies; and, that there are many inspiring actions taking place at the national level on energy efficiency in buildings, investing in forests to avoid emissions linked with deforestation and new vehicle emissions standards alongside a remarkable growth in investment in new renewable energies worldwide, which in 2011 totaled close to US$260 billion."
"Yet the sobering fact remains that a transition to a low carbon, inclusive Green Economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting the 44 Gt target is narrowing annually. While governments work to negotiate a new international climate agreement to come into effect in 2020, they urgently need to put their foot firmly on the action pedal by fulfilling financial, technology transfer and other commitments under the UN climate convention treaties. There are also a wide range of complementary voluntary measures that can that can bridge the gap between ambition and reality now rather than later."
The report estimates that there are potentially large emissions reductions possible-in a mid-range of 17 Gt of CO2 equivalents-from sectors such as buildings, power generation and transport that can more than bridge the gap by 2020. Meanwhile, there are abundant examples of actions at the national level in areas ranging from improved building codes to fuel standards for vehicles which, if scaled up and replicated, can also assist.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said, "This report is a reminder that time is running out, but that the technical means and the policy tools to allow the world to stay below a maximum 2 degrees Celsius are still available to governments and societies. Governments meeting in Doha for now need to urgently implement existing decisions which will allow for a swifter transition towards a low-carbon and resilient world. This notably means amending the Kyoto Protocol, developing a clear vision of how greenhouse gases can be curbed globally before and after 2020, and completing the institutions required to help developing countries green their economies and adapt, along with defining how the long-term climate finance that developing countries need can be mobilized. In addition, governments need to urgently identify how ambition can be raised."
In a separate release on the upcoming Doha COP18 meeting, Figueres said, "Doha is as important as any COP before it. Governments have agreed it is imperative to stay at least below a two degree average global temperature rise to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But they know this cannot be achieved without further dramatic transformation in energy production and use, and without effective support to developing nations so they can build their own sustainable futures. A faster response to climate change is necessary and possible, both in terms of the international policy response and increasing action at national and sub-national policy level and from global business. Doha must make sure the response is accelerated."