U.N. Emissions Gap Report 2018

This United Nations report has just been published. It is 9th in this series. 

The Report presents the latest scientific data on current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions. It then compares these with the emission levels permissible for the world to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement

The emissions gap

This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” is known as the ‘emissions gap’.

Greenhouse gas emissions gap

Basis of the Report

The Report takes into account a number of processes that have taken place recently:

The Emissions Gap Report does not refer to the recently published U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment(This will be covered in a later blog).

Summary of the results of the Report

The results of the Report can be summaries as follows:


  • The current commitments of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on reducing greenhouse gas emissions are not enough to bridge the emissions gap in 2030.
  • Unless the NDCs are increased it will no longer be possible to prevent warming exceeding 1.5ºC. 
  • If nothing changes it is projected that global warming will increase by about 3ºC by 2100, with the warming continuing thereafter. 
  • Unprecedented and urgent action is required by all nations.
  • Most G20 countries are on track to meet their emission reduction pledges by 2020. Other countries are not yet on course to reach their targets.

Carbon dioxide emissions

  • Carbon dioxide emissions increased in 2017 after three years of stabilisation.
  • In 2017 the total annual greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high of 53.5 GtCO2e. This represents an increase of 0.7 GtCO2 over the 2016 figure.
  • If the effect of land-use changes are removed from these figures the 2017 greenhouse gas emissions were 49.2 GtCO2e, and increase of 1.1% over 2016.
  • However, global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 must be 25% lower than 2017 in order to limit global warming to 2ºC, and 55% lower to limit warming to 1.5ºC.

The emissions gap

  • The emissions gap is 15 GtCO2eif only the NDCs are implemented in order to limit warming to 2ºC.
  • The emissions gap is 32 GtCO2e if only the NDCs are implemented in order to limit warming to 1.5ºC.

Necessary action to each the Paris Agreement targets

  • It is clear that countries have to scale up their NDCs if the targets of the Paris Agreement are to be met.
  • The Report also notes that actions taken at the sub-national and non-state levels could be significant. 
  • Fiscal policy, such as carbon pricing, plays an important role in creating incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Another key component is innovation of new technologies and new markets. Innovation and the creation of new markets is essential if the emissions gap is to be bridged.
  • International collaboration can unlock additional innovation by leveraging larger pools of money and talent.
  • Financial market regulation can favor low-carbon portfolios.

Success factors

There are five factors that the Report indicates policy makers should consider in tackling the emissions gap:

  • Public organizations must be willing to take on the early, high-risk stages of innovation.
  • At the mid-stage of innovation, public organizations must still be involved to de-risk private investment in new technologies and markets.
  • Green policies must give direction to the whole economy.
  • Specific targets should be identified, e.g. a reduction of x% in the cost of a technology by a specific date.
  • Policy instruments should be designed to provide as much certainly as possible for private finance investments. 

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