- This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
- Top nature and climate stories: World on course for almost 3°C of warming, UN says; EU leaders call for fossil fuel phase-out; Vulnerable nations on frontline of climate crisis could be insured for just $10 million each.
1. World on course for almost 3°C of warming without more aggressive action, UN says
Current emissions pledges by world governments leave the planet facing almost 3°C of warming by the end of the century, nearly double the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target, according to a new UN Environment Programme report.
The annual Emissions Gap Report assesses commitments for action to address the climate crisis from countries around the world.
Current collective climate commitments equate to atmospheric warming of 2.5-2.9°C above pre-industrial levels, it says.
If temperature rises hit 3°C, several irreversible planetary "tipping points" could be reached, including disappearing Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, changing monsoon patterns, coral reef die-offs and Amazon rainforest dieback.
"The report shows the emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon," says UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 42% by the end of this decade to keep atmospheric warming within 1.5°C. While achieving this is still possible, scientists put the likelihood of success at just 14%.
Greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.2% between 2021 and 2022, and this trajectory means the task ahead is becoming more and more difficult without urgent and sustained action to stop fossil fuel use.
2. EU leaders call for fossil fuel phase-out
European Union lawmakers have called for a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels, as they set out their views ahead of the start of the COP28 climate conference in the United Arab Emirates on 30 November.
The European Parliament sends a delegation to the climate talks, which involve almost 200 countries. It is urging delegates to agree "a tangible phase-out of fossil fuels as soon as possible, to keep 1.5°C within reach, including halting all new investments in fossil fuel extraction".
Total global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption
Global CO2 emissions increased by more than 60% between 1990 and 2017, with emissions from solid fuels increasing by 67.2%, liquid fuels by 37.6% and natural gas by 90.8%. And global emissions from these fuels continue to increase.
Despite calls to phase out carbon-emitting fuels like coal, oil and gas, global subsidies for fossil fuel extraction and production are increasing. They have risen by $2 trillion in the past two years to a total of $7 trillion today, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The World Economic Forum has shared a letter on behalf of more than 100 CEOs and senior executives from the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders to world leaders ahead of COP28, calling for governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in a just and equitable way.
3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week
Nations on the frontline of the climate crisis could be insured for just $10 million each, financed by a world-first fund to help the most vulnerable countries cope with climate change costs, according to a new UN report.
Seabed mining for precious metals is causing common jellyfish to become stressed, marine research has revealed. Mining for metallic nodules that occur naturally on the seabed causes plumes of sediment that upset sensitive jellyfish populations.
The Atlantic Constellation project is developing a new satellite system that will harvest data to detect and monitor climate change and natural disasters. Spain, Portugal and the UK are joining forces on the project.
Reusable packaging could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from plastics by almost 70% and reduce costs for some products, a new study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows.
What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?
More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.
The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.
In Ghana, for example, GPAP is working with technology giant SAP to create a group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect. This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally.
It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.
Read more about our impact.
Stronger EU action is needed to combat the health impacts of extreme weather events like heatwaves, say a large majority of the bloc's member states. More than 60,000 people are believed to have died because of heatwaves in Europe last summer.
China is set to launch a series of pilot projects aimed at bolstering domestic production and use of biodiesel. Biodiesel is a low-carbon alternative to fossil-fuel-derived diesel, made using feedstocks like palm oil and used cooking oil.
Blue whales are returning to parts of the Indian Ocean surrounding the Seychelles where whaling fleets decimated their ancestors in the 1960s. The area could become a breeding ground for the world's largest animals, who appear to be spending months in the region, researchers say.
4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda
Biodiversity loss due to the climate crisis and land-use change has left almost half the planet's flowering species facing extinction. Nature is vital to both the planet's and human health, with natural sources supporting more than 40% of pharmaceutical formulations.
Are you familiar with the term "human climate niche"? It relates to the habitable temperature range that has sustained human life for millennia. More than 600 million people already live outside the safe range and urgent action is needed to mitigate the situation.
Forests and trees are important tools in efforts to tackle the climate crisis. But quantifying trees by weight rather than by number could give a more accurate assessment of their ability to store harmful carbon dioxide.