DTU contributes to the science behind climate action

Monday 23 Sep 19
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John M. Christensen
Director of UNEP DTU Partnership
DTU Management
+4545 33 53 00

Research from UNEP DTU Partnership is part of the science behind the policy decisions, as world leaders meet to increase the ambition for climate action in New York.

Today heads of state and world leaders gather in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit.

The objective: to create the policy that save the world from rising sea levels, increasing weather extremes and global warming. Policy that is based on the latest climate data and science.

Along with other leading science institutions, DTU, through the UNEP DTU Partnership, is delivering the very latest authoritative information to the UN Climate Action Summit.

Motivated by the climate crisis, the summit is called by the UN Secretary General in an effort to increase the ambition for climate action, before it is too late to reach the goals in the Paris Agreement, and limit the devastating effects of climate change.

United in science

UNEP DTU Partnership and other of the world’s leading climate science organizations have joined forces to produce a new landmark report for the UN Climate Action Summit: The United in Science report.

It underlines the glaring – and growing – gap between agreed targets to tackle global warming and the actual reality, and highlights the urgency of fundamental socio-economic transformation.

The report is a synthesis of longer, individual reports, where the UN Environment flagship Emissions Gap Report (https://www.dtu.dk/english/news/2018/11/further-from-climate-goals-than-we-thought?id=aaa34e4a-a9bd-4cac-9857-52541206c3ae) is one of them. It assess the latest scientific studies on greenhouse gas emissions to see where we are likely to be and where we need to be to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and is coordinated by UNEP DTU Partnership.

The United in Science report was presented at a high-level science event on 22 September and will be given to world leaders at the Climate Action Summit today.

A lost decade

UNEP DTU Partnership is also involved in several other publications informing the decisions at to the Climate Action Summit. One of them presents a look at the last ten years of climate action. Unfortunately a rather bleak one.

Each year the UN Environment flagship Emissions Gap Report compares where current greenhouse gas emissions levels are headed to where they should be in 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The report, which is coordinated by UNEP DTU Partnership assesses the gap between countries' ambition for climate action and what is actually needed.

The Emissions Gap report has been published since 2009, and marking the ten-year anniversary, UNEP DTU Partnership director John Christensen and Head of Climate Planning and Policy Strategy Anne Olhoff have prepared a publication titled "Lessons from a decade of emission gap assessments". (https://unepdtu.org/ from-lost-decade-of-climate-action-hope-emerges/)

It shows that the current level of emissions is almost exactly at the level projected for 2020 under the business-as-usual, or no-policy, scenarios, based on the assumption that no new climate policies are put into place from 2005 onwards. In other words, essentially there has been no real change in the global emissions pathway in the last decade. The effects of climate policies have been too small to offset the impact of key drivers of emissions such as economic growth and population growth.

Focus on the gap in the G20

In November, the 2019 Emissions Gap Report will be published leading up to the COP25 negotiations in Chile. However, participants in the Climate Action Summit, policy makers, civil society and private sector representatives, got the opportunity to read an advanced chapter of the report yesterday focusing on the climate efforts of the G20 countries. (https://unepdtu.org/g20-nations-are-lagging-in-climate-action-but-have-huge-opportunities-to-increase-ambition)

As part of the UNEP DTU Partnership coordinated Emissions Gap Report, the chapter looks at the gaps between actions and commitments and the necessary ambition if we are to reach the goals in the Paris Agreement

The G20 accounts for roughly 80 % of emissions, and the chapter shows, that they are not on track to meet their commitments to the Paris Agreement. It also shows, that even if the G20 countries were to meet their commitments, it would still not be enough to l avoid a catastrophic temperature rise of well over 3°C this century.

I line with previous Emissions Gap Reports, the advance chapter not only assesses the current gap, but also point to key areas where G20 nations, and other countries can rapidly step up action and set more ambitious. 

This can be done by taking advantage of technological and economic developments, maximizing synergies between climate action and development, and building on the surge in climate action by non-state actors.

In fact, the chapter concludes that the low prices on renewable energy, the potential for economic benefit from climate action, city level initiatives and many more developmentshave created the ideal policy environment for action.