UNEP Emissions Gap Report Confirms World Far Off Track from Climate Goals, Policymakers Must Take Urgent Transformative Action

Statement by Rachel Cleetus at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Nov 20, 2023

Media Contact

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its annual emissions gap report today. This report is another in a spate of recent scientific studies that raises alarm about the disconnect between the science-based goals of the Paris climate agreement and both the pledges countries have made to rein in heat-trapping emissions and the policies they have implemented thus far to achieve those commitments. Scientific agencies around the globe are also forecasting that 2023 will be deemed the hottest year on record.

Below is a statement by Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director and a lead economist in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) with more than 20 years of experience working on international climate and energy issues and a regular attendee of the annual U.N. climate talks.

“This utterly sobering report shows that, absent rapid and transformative action to cut global heat-trapping emissions within this decade, the world is careening toward an increase in global average temperatures of 2.5 to 2.9 degrees Celsius, or higher, above pre-industrial levels. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the report reaches the shocking conclusion that we have only a 14% chance of limiting global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a clear testament to the grossly insufficient action from policymakers to date. The emissions data also underscores that ultra-wealthy individuals and rich, high-emitting nations—including the United States—are most responsible for this dire situation. Yet it’s people living in climate-vulnerable, low-income countries, as well as historically marginalized communities everywhere, who continue to bear the disproportionate brunt of worsening climate impacts.

“The only way to curtail this spiraling crisis is through wholesale changes to the global energy system that will sharply drive down all heat-trapping emissions. At COP28, nations must heed these scientific truths by agreeing to a fast and fair phaseout of fossil fuels, ramping up renewable energy and energy efficiency, and significantly expanding climate finance commitments from wealthier countries for an equitable clean energy transition.”