Emissions Gap Report 2023: Broken Record – Temperatures hit new highs, yet world fails to cut emissions (again)


The Emissions Gap Report 2023 was published on November 20, 2023 by the United Nations Environment Programme. It is the 14th edition of the annual UNEP Emissions Gap Report (EGR), the first of which was published in 2011. The report presents an assessment of the gap between the estimated future global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if countries fulfil their stated targets, and the global emission levels from the ‘least-cost pathways’ for limiting global warming to 2°C below ‘pre-industrial levels’ by 2100.

This 2023 EGR was published in advance of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28). Around 79 scientists from 22 different nations and 47 specialised institutions worked together to prepare the report. It sets the stage for the next round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that countries are requested to submit in 2025, which will include emissions reduction targets for 2035.

The report notes that at the time of the Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were predicted to increase by 16 per cent by 2030. Today, they’re projected to increase three per cent. However, emissions must still fall by 28 per cent for the world to limit warming below 2°C.

The 108-page report comprises seven chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Global emissions trends (Chapter 2); Nationally determined contributions and long-term pledges: The global landscape and G20 member progress (Chapter 3); The emissions gap in 2030 and beyond (Chapter 4); Global energy transformation in the context of the Paris Agreement (Chapter 5); Energy transitions for low-carbon development futures in low- and middle-income countries: Challenges and opportunities (Chapter 6); and The role of carbon dioxide removal in achieving the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal.


  1. Global GHG emissions increased from the previous year to a record high of 57.4 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) in 2022. This rate was slower than the emissions growth of the 1990s (1.2 per cent per year) and 2000s (2.2 per cent per year). But it was slightly higher than the average rate during 2010–2019, that is, 0.9 per cent per year.

  2. Carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion and industrial processes were the major contributors accounting for two-thirds of all GHG emissions during the year. Compared to the previous year, fluorinated gas emissions grew by 5.5 per cent followed by methane at 1.8 per cent and nitrous oxide by 0.9 per cent.

  3. Collectively, G20 nations contribute 76 per cent of all GHG emissions worldwide. However, per capital territorial emissions vary across countries. In Russia and the United States, emissions are higher than double the global average of 6.5 tons of CO2 equivalent. In India, they are less than half the global average.

  4. Of the total global population, the 10 per cent with the highest incomes accounted for 48 per cent of all emissions. In contrast, the poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population accounted for just 12 per cent of emissions.

  5. The report splits emissions into five major economic sectors: energy supply; industry; agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); transport; and buildings. Energy supply had the highest emissions in 2022 – 20.9 GtCO2e or 36 per cent.

  6. The industry sector ranked second with 25 per cent (14.4 GtCO2e) of the total emissions. It was followed by agriculture and LULUCF CO2 with 18 per cent (10.3 GtCO2e). Transport accounted for 14 per cent (8.1 GtCO2e) of the emissions and buildings 6.7 per cent (3.8 GtCO2e). However, the contributions of the building and industry sectors increase significantly (to 16 and 34 per cent respectively) if the emissions from the power sector are reallocated based on their use of heat and electricity.

  7. The difference between the projected global GHG emissions after full implementation of existing NDCs and the emissions rates in line with the Paris Agreement's long-term goals is known as the emissions gap. With the goal of limiting global warming below 2°C, the emissions gap in 2030 will be roughly 16 GtCO2e with current policies, 14 GtCO2e with full implementation of unconditional NDCs. With additional full implementation of the conditional NDCs, the emissions gap falls to 11 GtCO2e. (Conditional NDCs are “contingent on a range of possible conditions, such as the ability of national legislatures to enact the necessary laws, ambitious action from other countries, realization of finance and technical support, or other factors.”)

  8. The NDCs in place today are still far from enough to close the emissions gap by 2030. In contrast to the 28 per cent and 42 per cent emission cuts required to limit warming under 2°C or 1.5°C, respectively, full implementation of the unconditional and conditional NDCs for 2030 reduces expected emissions only by two and nine per cent respectively. In order to reach the necessary reductions, extraordinary yearly emission cuts will be needed from now until 2030, the report notes.

  9. Citing a 2020 paper from the journal Global Environmental Change, the report states that the energy required to achieve basic standards of living that enable global well-being could even be supplied while reducing overall global energy use. Given the unequal emissions across income groups and countries, this could be achieved if increases for some individuals and nations were offset by reductions in the consumption of the world's wealthiest individuals.

  10. Energy demands will increase significantly to meet the needs for the eradication of poverty and improvements to quality of life. In 2021, average per capita energy demand in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa was 16 and 19 gigajoules, respectively. It was 51 gigajoules in North America, 83 in Western Europe, and 51 in China. However, the report states, as renewable energy sources become more affordable the potential to meet energy demands in an equitable and efficient manner rises.

  11. Due to global demands like food production, resource extraction, infrastructure development, biodiversity and ecosystem services conservation, and climate change mitigation, competition for land is becoming increasingly important. Land-based carbon-dioxide removal options (like reforestation and afforestation) are in competition with urbanisation and cropland. Considering this, the report highlights the need for careful spatial planning while developing sustainable climate policies.

    Focus and Factoids by Panchali Banerjee.


United Nations Environment Programme


United Nations Environment Programme


20 Nov, 2023