OSLO (Reuters) - Governments are far off track in combating global warming and should phase out net carbon dioxide emissions by 2070, well within the expected lifetime of people born today, a U.N. study said on Wednesday.
Greenhouse gas emissions have leapt 45 percent since 1990, making it ever harder to reach a U.N. goal of limiting average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above levels before the Industrial Revolution, it said.
“Taking more action now reduces the need for more extreme action later to stay within safe emission limits,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), which issued the report.
It said “carbon neutrality will need to be achieved sometime between 2055 and 2070” to give a likely chance of staying below 2 degrees, based on findings by a U.N. panel of climate scientists.
Carbon neutrality means that any carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels would be offset, for instance by planting forests that suck carbon from the air as they grow.
Average world life expectancy at birth stands today at about 69 years.
The carbon goals are far tougher than those set by most nations in the run-up to a U.N. summit in Paris in 2015 that hopes to clinch a deal to limit floods, heatwaves, more powerful storms and rising sea levels.
Top emitters China, the United States and the European Union have all set new goals beyond 2020 in recent weeks. China, for instance, set a first cap on its rising emissions - by around 2030 - but did not specify the level.
“Unfortunately, the world is not currently headed in the right direction,” said Andrew Steer, head of the World Resources Institute think-tank.
This year is on track so far to be among the warmest on record. In stark contrast, the United States suffered its coldest November morning since 1976 on Tuesday, with temperatures below freezing in all 50 states.
To get on track for 2C, global emissions should be no higher than 44 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2020, a gap of 8 to 10 billion below projected emissions on current trends, UNEP said.
The report also highlighted ways to cut emissions, such as better insulation of buildings or cuts in global fossil fuel subsidies of $600 billion a year.
Editing by Gareth Jones