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IPW: UN emissions gap report, and the UK’s climate resilience risk

01 November 2022

The UN warns of a global emissions gap and the UK must act on climate resilience. 

IPW: UN emissions gap report, and the UK’s climate resilience risk
A UN report calls for a shift in use of transport to help in the fight against climate change. Image credit: Shutterstock

National pledges make little difference to global warming

There is currently no credible pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to a new report from the UN Environment Programme.

The annual emissions gap assessment shows that updated national pledges since COP26 make little difference to projected 2030 greenhouse gas emissions.

At last year’s climate conference, hosted by the UK, countries pledged to revisit and strengthen their targets by the end of 2022.

But the world is still far from the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. Implementing current pledges means a 2.4-2.6°C rise by the end of the century is more likely.

Systems-wide transformation is needed

The reduction in emissions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic was short-lived.

Instead, 2021 could set a new record for global emissions.

As governments prepare for COP27 this month in Egypt, the UN says urgent system-wide transformation is needed to deliver enormous emissions cuts.

The world must reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to current projections to meet the 1.5°C target.

The UN says incremental change is no longer an option. Only broad-based, economy-wide transformations will be enough.

Accelerate action across all infrastructure sectors

Governments will need to steeply increase and accelerate action in all infrastructure sectors to drive this transformation.

Decarbonising the electricity supply has seen the most progress as the costs of renewable electricity have fallen dramatically.

However, major obstacles remain, including integrating large-scale renewable energy to the grid to manage supply, storage and demand.

For transportation, the report calls for accelerating the shift to low-emitting modes of public transport, active travel, and zero-carbon cars and vans.

It also emphasises the role of behaviour change, particularly the need for frequent car and aircraft users to reduce their overall journeys.

ICE’s view

The latest report follows a similar warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this year.

Both reports highlight the implementation gap among G20 countries between often ambitious climate mitigation commitments and realistic policies to deliver them.

For the UK, both the National Infrastructure Commission and the Climate Change Committee have warned that the government is off-track for meeting its target of net zero by 2050.

With a new prime minister in place, the ICE has highlighted the need for the UK to strengthen net zero governance and step up policies to reduce energy demand to begin closing that gap.

Looked at globally, it is positive that more countries have raised their ambition and strengthened their decarbonisation frameworks this year.

Australia passed legislation committing to raise emissions cuts to 43% by 2030 and pursue the goal of net zero by 2050. New Zealand published its first emissions reduction plan.

Singapore has also recently raised its national climate targets, committing to net zero by 2050 and increasing the emissions reduction target in its 2030 NDC

However, the adverse impact of climate change is already becoming more apparent.

The window for limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C is closing and the UN’s latest report makes clear just how far the world still needs to go.

Infrastructure risk from climate change threatens UK national security

A new report has warned the UK government must do more to protect the country’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) from the impact of climate change.

Extreme weather events pose a critical risk to national security.

However, Parliament’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy warned of an ‘extreme weakness’ in the government’s approach to managing climate adaptation and resilience.

It highlights recent major storms and this year’s heatwave which had a cascading impact across infrastructure systems, including power, transport and communications.

Despite these warnings, the committee says governance and oversight gaps mean the UK’s infrastructure is ill-prepared for future climate shocks.

In particular it highlights:

  • the lack of clear ministerial responsibility for CNI resilience,
  • repeated delays to the National Resilience Strategy, and
  • the absence of formal mechanisms for collaboration or information-sharing between CNI sectors, with regulation also happening in silos.

ICE’s view

The report is not the first to raise concerns about the significant gaps in the UK’s approach to climate resilience.

Earlier this year the CCC called for ‘a step-change in ambition and delivery’ on climate adaptation.

As the joint committee also highlights, there are long-term economic as well as security benefits to investing early in adaptation.

Around the world countries are accelerating their climate resilience planning in response to the rising number of extreme weather events.

New Zealand recently published its first national adaptation plan, which focused on enabling better decision-making and strengthening the resilience of its infrastructure.

In case you missed it:

  • A new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) and the ICE examines how we could accelerate delivery of the UK’s Integrated Rail Plan.
  • The ICE sets out its top priorities for the UK’s new prime minister.
  • The ICE submitted a response to the UK government’s Net Zero Review call for evidence.

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch.

You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • David McNaught, policy manager at ICE