WORLD SUSTAINABILITY CENTRE

Understanding Carbon Emissions and Climate Change

Carbon emissions are a significant contributor to climate change, and reducing them is crucial for the health of the planet. Carbon emissions refer to the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, primarily through human activities such as burning fossil fuels for energy, transportation, and industrial processes.

According to the Global Carbon Project, global carbon dioxide emissions reached a record high of 43.1 billion tonnes in 2019, with China, the United States, and India being the top three emitters. This represents a 62% increase in global emissions since 1990. The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the majority of these emissions, with coal being the most carbon-intensive fuel.

The impact of carbon emissions on the planet is significant. Increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap heat, leading to rising global temperatures, sea level rise, and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heatwaves, and droughts. These effects have a wide range of impacts on both human societies and natural ecosystems, including food and water security, public health, and biodiversity.

Reducing carbon emissions requires significant changes to how we produce and consume energy, and how we live our lives. This includes a shift towards renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower, as well as energy efficiency measures such as improving insulation in buildings and increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles. Additionally, reducing emissions from deforestation and land use changes can also play a significant role in reducing overall carbon emissions.

Governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play in reducing carbon emissions. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has set a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which requires significant reductions in carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, aims to achieve this goal by establishing targets for reducing carbon emissions and encouraging international cooperation to achieve these targets.

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty designed to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement was adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015 and entered into force in 2016. It is considered a landmark achievement in global efforts to address climate change, as it establishes a framework for international cooperation and sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an aim of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this goal, the agreement establishes a framework for countries to set their own targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). These targets are reviewed every five years, with the goal of progressively increasing ambition over time.

One of the unique features of the Paris Agreement is its emphasis on transparency and accountability. Countries are required to report their emissions and progress towards their targets, and a robust system of reporting and review is in place to ensure that countries are meeting their commitments. This transparency is intended to build trust and encourage international cooperation, as countries work together to address the global challenge of climate change.

Another important feature of the Paris Agreement is its recognition of the need for financial and technological support for developing countries. Developed countries are required to provide financial assistance to help developing countries transition to low-carbon economies and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The agreement also establishes a technology framework to support the development and transfer of clean technologies.

The Paris Agreement has been signed by 196 countries, including the United States, China, and India, which are the top three emitters of greenhouse gases. However, in 2017, the United States announced its intention to withdraw from the agreement, a decision that was reversed by the Biden administration in 2021. The United States has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.



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