Earth Chat

On track to a 3°C world with climate inaction

Temperature records are being broken across the globe this year. The streak of extreme warmth virtually guarantees 2023 will be the hottest year in recorded history.[1]

The UN Environment Programme’s Executive Director, Inger Andersen, warned that, "humanity is breaking all the wrong records on climate,”[2]as the global authority released the latest Emissions Gap Report,[3]just a week before world leaders gather in Dubai for the 28th UN climate change conference (COP28).

The report found that the pace at which we are decoupling our economy from fossil fuel consumption is still going too slow. Instead of halving, carbon emissions are projected to increase by 3% in 2030. Despite record increase in solar capacity, investment in fossil fuel extraction and use has continued. 78% of countries still promote fossil fuel consumption through net direct subsidies—to a tune of US$305 billion in 2020 alone.[4]

Total net GHG emissions from human activities, 1990–2022 (Image source: UNEP)

The lack of progress in climate commitments was also a concern. Even if the current nationally determined contributions are fully implemented, they would still put the world on a path towards 2.5-2.9°C of temperature rise, above the 1.5°C and 2°C thresholds set in the Paris Agreement.

A wide emission gap still exists between current policies and commitments and the Paris Agreement (Image source: UNEP)

The disappointing shortfall in climate ambition and action extends past the national level. Another report in June found that over 760 major cities, representing 63% of urbanites living in large cities, still have not set net zero targets.[5]More than 730—or 37%—of the world’s largest publicly-listed companies do not have mitigation targets; and over a quarter of companies plans to meet their net zero commitments through carbon dioxide offset, which has been warned as not a "get-out-of-jail-free card” from reducing emissions.[6]

Although fossil fuel companies have pledged carbon neutrality, the world’s 20 largest oil and gas producers have continued to ramp up fossil fuel production levels. The UNEP report noted that the coal, oil and gas that will be extracted over the lifetime of existing and planned mines and fields as at 2018 would use up the remaining carbon budget for a 2.0°C scenario and exceed the 1.5°C carbon budget more than three times over.

Carbon emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure paired with the carbon budgets (Image source: UNEP)

Climate inaction is already costing us today with increased risk of heat-related deaths, rising food insecurity, and loss in labour productivity, but this can change. A shift towards a low-carbon, sustainable society has far-reaching benefits. Decarbonising our energy systems can prevent 1.9 million deaths yearly from air pollution.[7]57% of agricultural emissions and 12 million deaths a year can be tackled through healthier, low-carbon diets.

With the much anticipated climate conference just around the corner, this is a chance for world leaders to demonstrate credibility by putting forth stronger climate commitments and actions to align with the Paris Agreement.

In line with Hong Kong's vision of establishing itself as a leading centre for green and sustainable finance, Friends of the Earth (HK) and the Financial Services Development Council will co-host an event in the China Corner titled "Hong Kong's Drive Towards Green and Sustainable Development and Cutting-Edge Innovations" on 6 December 2023 at the COP 28.

This collaboration represents a significant milestone as it marks the first-ever participation of non-government representatives from Hong Kong at the China Corner Side Event of COP, it highlights the city's unwavering commitment to global environmental preservation and financial sustainability. Hong Kong’s presence at COP28 aims to draw international attention to its achievements and dedication to spearheading initiatives that promote environmental preservation and financial sustainability on a worldwide scale.

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