World set for 3°C temperature rise this century, UN warns

20th November 2023


Global temperatures are on track to increase by 3°C above pre-industrial levels this century under current government policies, the UN has warned.

Its Emissions Gap Report 2023, published today, reveals that global greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.2% between 2021 and 2022 to reach a new record of 57.4 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

If mitigation efforts are continued at today’s levels, global warming will only be limited to 3°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, according to the report.

Fully implementing unconditional nationally determined contributions (NDCs) would give the world a 66% chance of limiting warming to 2.9°C, while implementation of conditional NDCs would give the same odds of limiting the rise to 2.5°C.

The UN is now warning that emissions must fall by 28% if the world is to limit warming to 2°C, and by 42% for 1.5°C .

Secretary-general, Antònio Guterres, said: “We know it is still possible to make the 1.5°C limit a reality. It requires tearing out the poisoned root of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. And it demands a just, equitable renewables transition.”

By the beginning of October this year, 86 days were recorded with temperatures over 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. September was the hottest month ever recorded, with average temperatures 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels.

Today’s report also reveals that no G20 countries are reducing emissions at a pace consistent with their net-zero targets. Even in the most optimistic scenario, the likelihood of limiting warming to 1.5°C is only 14%.

On a more positive note, in 2015, emissions were projected to increase by 16% by 2030 based on policies at that time, but are now only expected to rise by 3%.

As of 25 September, nine countries had submitted new or updated NDCs since COP27, bringing the total number of updated NDCs to 149.

The first Global Stocktake, concluding at COP28, will inform the next round of NDCs that countries should submit in 2025, with targets for 2035.

Global ambition in the next round of NDCs must bring emissions in 2035 to levels consistent with 2°C and 1.5°C pathways, while compensating for excess emissions until levels consistent with these pathways are achieved, the report states.

“There is no person or economy left on the planet untouched by climate change, so we need to stop setting unwanted records on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature highs and extreme weather,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme.

“We must instead lift the needle out of the same old groove of insufficient ambition and not enough action, and start setting other records: on cutting emissions, on green and just transitions and on climate finance.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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