This twelfth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report comes during a year of constant reminders that climate change is not in the distant future. Extreme weather events around the world – including flooding, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and heatwaves – have continuously hit the news headlines. Thousands of people have been killed or displaced and economic losses are measured in the trillions. Bearing witness to the increasingly clear signs of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first report in its Sixth Assessment cycle addressing the “Physical Science Basis” in August 2021. Dubbed a “code red for humanity” by the United Nations Secretary-General, the IPCC report documents in far greater detail and with higher certainty than previous assessments how climate change and extreme events can be attributed to the build-up of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere. There is a fifty-fifty chance that global warming will exceed 1.5°C in the next two decades, and unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in GHG emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C or even 2°C by the end of the century will be beyond reach.

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