Key Findings of the 
Emissions Gap Report

Key Findings of the 
Emissions Gap Report
United Nations 
Environment Programme
November 2010


  • Studies show that emission levels of approximately 44 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) (range: 39-44 GtCO2e*) in 2020 would be consistent with a “likely” chance of limiting global warming to 2° C.
  • Under business-as-usual projections, global emissions could reach 56 GtCO2e (range: 54-60 GtCO2e) in 2020, leaving a gap of 12 GtCO2e.
  • If the lowest-ambition pledges were implemented in a “lenient” fashion**, emissions could be lowered slightly to 53 GtCO2e (range: 52-57 GtCO2e), leaving a significant gap of 9 GtCO2e.
  • The gap could be reduced substantially by policy options being discussed in the negotiations:
    •  By countries moving to higher ambition, conditional pledges
    •  By the negotiations adopting rules that avoid a net increase in emissions from (a) “lenient” accounting of land use, land-use change and forestry activities and (b) the use of surplus emission units
  • If the above policy options were to be implemented, emissions in 2020 could be lowered to 49 GtCO2e (range: 47-51 GtCO2e), reducing the size of the gap to 5 GtCO2e.  This is approximately equal to the annual global emissions from all the world’s cars, buses and transport in 2005 – But this is also almost 60 per cent of the way towards reaching the 2° C target.
  • It will also be important to avoid increasing the gap by “double counting” of offsets.
  • Studies show that it is feasible to bridge the remaining gap through more ambitious domestic actions, some of which could be supported by international climate finance.
  • 'With or without a gap, current studies indicate that steep emission reductions are needed post 2020 in order to keep our chances of limiting warming to2° C or 1.5°C.

Range here refers to the “majority of results”, i.e. their 20th and 80th percentile.
“Lenient” in this report is used to refer to the situation in which LULUCF accounting rules and the use of surplus emission units result in a net increase in emissions.

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