CAT Emissions Gap


In addition to the global temperature outcomes of policies and pledges, the CAT also assesses the expected absolute emissions in 2030 and compares these with emissions consistent with benchmark pathways in line with the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal.

Emissions Gap

As of May 2021, a substantial gap remains between the levels of emissions in 2030 projected in the NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC, including those recently announced by Canada, China, Japan, South Africa and Ukraine, and the lower levels that would be consistent with the temperature limit of the Paris Agreement.

The benchmark emissions from a 1.5°C compatible pathway are at 26 GtCO2e in 2030. Comparing these with the emissions from the pledges and targets scenario, including some long-term or net zero targets, submitted or announced by April 2021, the CAT calculates a gap of 20–23 GtCO2e in 2030.

Our latest briefing has the full details of this analysis.

Main changes

With the release of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C the CAT updated its benchmark emissions pathways in 2018 meeting the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal (for more info see here).

The main effect of this update is that 1.5°C-compatible levels for 2030 are lower by about 3 GtCO2e/yr. This is related to the fact that 2030 and post-2030 emissions need to compensate for higher emissions between 2010 and 2020 than the previously used benchmark pathways. These earlier pathways were intended to guide CAT updates on how the world could benefit from early strong global action, which has however not materialised. Now the 2010s decade of delayed climate action needs to be compensated by steeper reductions from 2020 to 2030 and beyond, which can therefore be seen as an expression of lost time in global mitigation.

The IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C shows that steep reductions are urgent, but feasible, and will still deliver the many benefits associated with 1.5°C-compatible pathways in terms of avoided climate-change impacts, as well as cleaner air, increased employment in the renewable energy sector, access to modern energy, etc.

Last update: 4 May 2021

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