Greenhouse gas levels hit record; world struggles to curb damage

FILE PHOTO: A truck engine is tested for pollution exiting its exhaust pipe near the Mexican-U.S. border in Otay Mesa, California September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake/

Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record last year and the world is “way off track” in capping rising temperatures, the United Nations said on Monday in a stark illustration of the tasks facing UN climate talks in Scotland.

A report by the U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020, rising more than the average rate over the last decade despite a temporary dip in emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises “far in excess” of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century.

“We are way off track,” he said. “We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life,” he added, calling for a “dramatic increase” in commitments at the COP26 conference beginning on Sunday.

The city of Glasgow was putting on the final touches before hosting the climate talks, which may be the world’s best remaining chance to cap global warming at the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius upper limit set out in the Paris Agreement.

Under countries’ current pledges, global emissions would be 16% higher in 2030 than they were in 2010, according to a separate analysis by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

That is far off the 45% reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to cap warming at 1.5 degrees and avoid its most devastating impacts.

“Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the (greenhouse gas) emissions in the atmosphere,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

“We are nowhere near where science says we should be,” Espinosa said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference with children the summit was going to be “very, very tough”. read more

“I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done,” he said.

The German government announced Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Glasgow to take part. read more Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person. He and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to make video appearances instead.

Britain is seeking support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle global warming. Johnson urged Putin, for instance, to bring forward by 10 years Russia’s target for achieving net zero carbon emissions, from 2060 to 2050, Johnson’s office said on Monday.

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