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expert reaction to UNEP’s 2022 Emissions Gap Report

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has published their Emissions Gap Report for 2022.


Prof Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, University of Oxford, said:

“This report reiterates what has been patently obvious for years: we are going to generate more carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels than we can afford to dump in the atmosphere, so in addition to reducing emissions as fast as possible, we need to be scaling up industrial-scale carbon dioxide disposal. In the long term, the only gap the climate system cares about is the gap between the amount of CO2 we produce and the amount we restore to the geosphere. We can close this gap: the combined profits, taxes and royalties generated by the oil and gas industry over the past few months would be enough to capture every single molecule of CO2 produced by their activities and products and reinject it back underground. So why are we only talking about transforming society and not about obliging a highly profitable industry to clean up the mess caused by the products it sells?”


Prof Tom Oliver, Professor of Applied Ecology, University of Reading, said:

“In response to ‘woefully inadequate’ progress since COP 26, UNEP is calling for rapid and widespread transformation to what we eat, how we travel, use energy and bank our money. Frankly, everything about the way we live has to change dramatically and urgently to prevent dire impacts on the world’s most vulnerable populations. This recognition of the need for widescale system change is much needed. Many environmental policies focus on economic ‘sticking plasters’ and wishful ‘technofixes’, neglecting the need for deeper change to the culture of our societies. This UNEP report, along with others such as those by the European Environment Agency and IPCC, now make clear that all our social institutions must rapidly transform if we are avoid severe global climate heating. Our institutions- including our energy, finance, food and transport systems- are ultimately comprised of the worldviews of people, past and present. So, institutional change requires transformation of people’s worldviews and the culture of our society. Unfortunately, many governments adopt a ‘hands-off’ approach when it comes to stewarding changes in culture. We certainly don’t want change imposed, but to meet the rapid pace of change called for by this UNEP report, there is an urgent need for facilitated discussion on what changes society is willing and able to make. This might well mean lower economic growth in the short term (since it is currently strongly coupled to greenhouse gas emissions) but it certainly doesn’t mean poverty- there are ways to live a rich fulfilling life that don’t destroy the planet. In response to this UNEP report, we urgently need better public dialogue to choose socially acceptable pathways towards a sustainable future.”


Prof Bill Collins, Professor of Climate Processes, University of Reading, said:

This is an alarming report, warning us that we are nowhere near being on the right pathway to avoiding warming of 1.5 degrees. It tells us that we have wasted the last year and have made essentially no progress in cutting emissions since the COP26 meeting. While many governments have pledged to reach “net zero” by 2050, it is becoming apparent that they are not on track to do so. This is crucial as sticking to the net zero targets (and other pledges made at COP26) could limit warming to 1.8 degrees compared to the current track of 2.4 to 2.6 degrees. The differences might not sound large, but the IPCC report last year demonstrated that every half degree warming causes more heatwaves, droughts and floods.

“The WMO has just reported that carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide levels all increased by record amounts last year. All evidence suggests we are heading in the wrong direction.”


Prof Euan Nisbet, Professor of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, said:

This impressive report details how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go to reduce the danger of climate warming. 

“The good news is that a great deal has been achieved. Many countries are clearly making good progress towards Net Zero, without damaging their economies or causing deep social hurt. Wealth generation is being decoupled from CO2 emission. That progress may not be fast enough , nor comprehensive enough, but it is happening. There are grounds for hope that many countries will indeed achieve something close to Net Zero emissions in the next few decades. 

“The bad news is that despite all the efforts of recent decades, we are still very very far from the hopes of the Paris Agreement.  While US emissions are coming down sharply, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) now dominate CO2 emissions. Indonesia and Australia also have very far to go to cut emissions. The European Union’s 7.2 tons of CO2 equivalent emitted per capita now contrast sharply with China’s 9.7 tons. Methane is very different from CO2 in its emissions and its atmospheric lifetime, and record recent growth is very worrying indeed. To succeed, the Global Methane Pledge desperately needs the two biggest emitters, China and India, to join. 

“We are already seeing enormous changes in global weather and the habitability of large regions. The Emissions Gap report makes it clear how much we have to do.  Most critically, China and India need to help, urgently.  If they do not, then the global consequences will be unthinkable.”


Dr Matthew Jones, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, said:

“This latest report is a reminder that, due to the inadequacy of current policy commitments, we are rapidly burning through the fossil fuels that would actually need to stay in the ground if we hope to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C.

“The 1.5°C target exists for a reason – it is the temperature increase that can keep us in the safest landing zone with respect to the impacts of climate change. The further we miss this target by, the more we’ll face the effects of extreme events such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires. 

“Overshooting the target will mean that societies worldwide will incur greater costs from extreme events. It will also cost more to get temperatures back down to the +1.5°C level by the end of the century, because we will need to implement negative emissions technologies more aggressively to re-capture the excess CO2 that we are set to emit, at least under current policy commitments.

“Evidently, we need more ambitious policies if we want to land in the safest zone, especially from the largest emitters.”



The 2022 Emissions Gap Report’ was published by UNEP at 12 noon UK time on Thursday 27 October.



Declared interests

Prof Collins: “none to declare.”

Prof Nisbet: “none to declare.”

Dr Jones: “none to declare.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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