Climate action

  • Climate records were shattered in 2023 as the climate crisis accelerated in real time. Rising temperatures have not abated and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb. Communities worldwide are suffering from extreme weather and increasingly frequent and more intense disasters, destroying lives and livelihoods daily. Meanwhile, fossil fuel subsidies hit a record high.
  • The global community faces a critical juncture. All countries must urgently speed up economy-wide, low-carbon transformations to avoid escalating economic and social costs. The next round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in 2025 is an opportunity for bold climate action plans that propel economies and societies forward. The upcoming 2025 cycle of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) presents a chance for ambitious climate action plans that drive economic and social progress.
  • The roadmap to halting warming at 1.5°C and avoiding the worst of climate chaos is clear but cannot afford any delays or half measures.

  • Young climate activists stand on an artificial beach in Malé, Maldives, highlighting messages urging climate action.

    © UNICEF/Srijan Pun

    Drastic reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions must take place by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

    Highest-ever greenhouse gas emissions reveal a global failure to meet climate goals

    In 2022, global greenhouse gas emissions reached a new record of 57.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, according to the United Nations Environment Programme's Emissions Gap Report 2023. About two thirds of emissions comprised CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes. Except transportation, emissions from all major sectors have rebounded since the pandemic and now exceed 2019 levels. The energy sector, responsible for 86 per cent of global CO2 emissions, remains the largest contributor, driven by the expansion of coal- and gas-fired power generation. Governments plan to produce around 110 per cent more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

    Keeping warming to 1.5°C calls for a 42 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, requiring an 8.7 per cent annual decline. For a 2°C limit, a 28 per cent drop by 2030 is necessary or a 5.3 per cent annual decrease. The only comparable fall was by 4.7 per cent during the pandemic from 2019 to 2020.

    Current national policies set the world on track for warming of 3°C. NDCs lower this to 2.5°C, while all net-zero pledges would put warming at 2°C, although these pledges are highly uncertain. There is currently only a 14 per cent chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, underscoring the urgency of immediate, accelerated action to significantly cut emissions this decade.

    Global annual mean temperature relative to pre-industrial levels (1850-1900 average), 1850-2022 (degrees Celsius)
    Note: Total net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions include CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry (fossil CO2), CO2 emissions and removals from land use, land use changes and forestry (LULUCF CO2), methane emissions (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions and fluorinated gas (F-gas) emissions reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    Source: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 2023. Emissions Gap Report 2023: Broken Record - Temperatures hit new highs, yet world fails to cut emissions (again). Nairobi: UNEP.

    Reaching the $100 billion climate finance goal is a milestone yet trillions are needed for national action plans

    Climate finance is crucial in backing global mitigation and adaptation efforts. Developed countries committed to mobilize $100 billion annually in climate finance for developing countries by 2020 and through 2025. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that the commitment was met for the first time in 2022. Climate finance increased by 30 per cent from 2021 to reach $115.9 billion in 2022, with 60 per cent of the total allocated to mitigation. Total adaptation finance rose to $32.4 billion from $10.1 billion in 2016. The 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact urged developed nations to double adaptation finance to developing countries from 2019 levels by 2025. Based on OECD figures, by 2022, developed countries were approximately halfway towards meeting this goal.

    Negotiations are under way to establish a new climate finance goal from 2025 onwards, starting from a floor of $100 billion annually, and taking into account developing countries' needs and priorities. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) estimates that nearly $6 trillion is needed for developing countries' climate action plans by 2030, underscoring the need to massively scale up finance.

    Another broken record - 2023 was the warmest year yet

    The world continues to shatter temperature records. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that 2023 was the hottest year on record, with global average temperatures soaring to approximately 1.45°C above pre-industrial levels. The 10 warmest years in the 174 years with records have all occurred during the last decade. Extreme weather events, including heatwaves, major floods, droughts, wildfires and tropical cyclones, have disrupted the lives of millions of people and caused billions of dollars in economic losses.

    As of June 2024, a WMO climate update underscored an 80 per cent likelihood of at least one year temporarily exceeding 1.5°C from 2024 to 2028. In 2015, the probability for such a temperature spike was near zero. The global mean near-surface temperature for each year from 2024 to 2028 is predicted to be 1.1°C to 1.9°C higher than the 1850-1900 baseline. At least one of the next five years will likely surpass 2023 as the warmest on record.

    Global annual mean temperature relative to pre-industrial levels (1850-1900 average), 1850-2023 (degrees Celsius)
    Source: The figure and climate stripes are drawn from the World Meteorological Organization's State of the Global Climate 2023 report, which combines six international data sets for temperature: HadCRUT. (UK Met Office), NOAAGlobalTemp v5 (USA), NASA GISTEMP v4 (USA), Berkeley Earth (USA), ERA5 (ECMWF), and JRA-55 (Japan).

    Fossil fuel subsidies hit a record high globally in 2022, exceeding $1.5 trillion

    Fossil fuel subsidies reached a record high of $1.53 trillion in 2022, driven by rising energy prices post-pandemic and the impact of the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted global energy markets. The increase widened the gap between consumer prices and actual energy costs, prompting many governments to introduce support measures to shield industries and populations from inflation. Public funds shoring up the production and consumption of oil, coal and gas more than doubled between 2021 and 2022, and more than tripled from their 2015 levels, reversing progress made between 2012 and 2020 and hindering the net-zero transition.

    All regions saw higher subsidies between 2021 and 2022, with the highest in Europe and Northern America ($455 billion), followed by Northern Africa and Western Asia ($327 billion) and Central and Southern Asia ($322 billion). By artificially lowering fossil fuel prices, subsidies harm the competitiveness of cleaner energy sources and hinder the low-carbon transition. They strain national budgets, especially in countries facing fiscal constraints and high debt levels. Although intended to aid vulnerable households, subsidies often disproportionately benefit wealthier people, who consume more energy than lower-income households, as well as carbon-intensive companies. Despite numerous national, regional and global pledges to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, data show minimal action.

    Global estimate of fossil fuel subsidies, 2010-2022 (billions of US dollars)

    As disasters become more probable, better preparedness has lowered mortality rates

    According to the WMO, recorded disasters increased fivefold over the past 50 years, driven partly by human-induced climate change. The number of persons affected by disasters per 100,000 population rose from 1,169 (2005-2014) to 1,980 (2013-2022), a 69 per cent increase, as reported by the Sendai Framework Monitor. The total affected population averaged 133 million people annually from 2015 to 2022, up from 29 million annually from 2005 to 2014. If current trends continue, it is projected that 560 medium- to large-scale disaster events could occur annually by 2030, an average of 1.5 per day.

    In LDCs, the disaster-affected population per 100,000 people is 20 per cent higher than the global average, and the mortality rate is 170 per cent higher. This illustrates that the catastrophic impact of disasters is much greater in these countries.

    Improved preparedness, including early warning systems and evacuation measures, have significantly reduced disaster mortality in recent years. Global disaster mortality per 100,000 population dropped by 49 per cent, from 1.62 in 2005-2014 to 0.82 in 2013-2022 (excluding COVID-19 related cases). This translates to an average annual mortality of 42,553 people between 2013 and 2022, a one-third decrease from the annual average in 2005-2014. National long-term risk reduction strategies and plans, reported by 129 countries; the establishment of effective multi-hazard early warning systems, reported by 104 countries; and comprehensive resilience plans are key to minimizing disaster impacts on people and economies.