Planet far off track from meeting climate goals: Multi-agency report

It illustrates how weather, climate and water-related sciences can advance aims such as food and water security, clean energy, better health, sustainable oceans and resilient cities

Representative image of drought (photo: IANS)
Representative image of drought (photo: IANS)


At the half-time point of the 2030 Agenda, the science is clear -- the planet is far off track from meeting its climate goals. 

This undermines global efforts to tackle hunger, poverty and ill-health, improve access to clean water and energy and many other aspects of sustainable development, a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Thursday. 

Only 15 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on track, says the United in Science report, which makes a systematic examination of the impact of climate change and extreme weather on the goals. 

It illustrates how weather, climate and water-related sciences can advance aims such as food and water security, clean energy, better health, sustainable oceans and resilient cities.

The annual report combines input and expertise from 18 organisations. 

It is issued ahead of the SDG Summit and Climate Ambition Summit at the United Nations General Assembly.

"The year 2023 has shown all too clearly that climate change is here. Record temperatures are scorching the land and heating the sea, as extreme weather causes havoc around the globe. While we know this is just the beginning, the global response is falling far short. Meanwhile, halfway to the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world is woefully off-track," says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

"Science is central to solutions. It is widely understood that weather, climate, and water-related sciences provide the underpinnings for climate action. But it is less recognized how these sciences can supercharge progress on the SDGs across the board," Guterres writes in the foreword. 

"At this pivotal moment in history, the halfway mark to achieving the SDGs, the science community stands united in the effort to achieve prosperity for people and the planet," says WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. 

"Groundbreaking scientific and technological advances, such as high-resolution climate modelling, artificial intelligence and nowcasting, can catalyze transformation to achieve the SDGs. And achieving early warnings for all by 2027 will not only save lives and livelihoods but also help safeguard sustainable development," he comments. 

The report shows, for example, how weather predictions help boost food production and move closer to zero hunger. 

Integrating epidemiology and climate information helps understand and anticipate those diseases sensitive to climate. And early-warning systems help to reduce poverty by giving people the chance to prepare and limit the impact. 

The need for science and solutions is more urgent than ever. 

Between 1970 and 2021, there were nearly 12,000 reported disasters from weather, climate and water extremes, causing over 2 million deaths and $4.3 trillion in economic losses. 

Over 90 per cent of these reported deaths and 60 per cent of economic losses occurred in developing economies, undermining sustainable development. 

Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by more extreme weather. 

The chance of the annual mean global near-surface temperature temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for at least one of the next five years is 66 per cent and is increasing with time. 

So far, there has been very limited progress in reducing the emissions gap for 2030 -- the gap between the emissions reductions promised by countries and the emissions reductions needed to achieve the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. 

Fossil fuel CO2 emissions increased one per cent globally in 2022 compared to 2021 and preliminary estimates from January-June 2023 show a further 0.3 per cent rise. 

To get on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to well below 2C and preferably 1.5 degrees C, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 30 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively, by 2030, with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions getting close to net zero by 2050. 

This will require large-scale, rapid and systemic transformations. 

Some future changes in climate are unavoidable, and potentially irreversible, but every fraction of a degree and ton of CO2 matters to limit global warming and achieve the SDGs, says the report. 

"The science continues to show that we are not doing enough to lower emissions and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement -- as the world prepares for the first global stocktake at COP28, we must increase our ambition and action, and we must all do the real work to transform our economies through a just transition to a sustainable future for people and planet," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. 

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