The Emissions and Adaptation Reports: An Evaluation

by Olivia Draycott

What is the Emission and Adaptation Report?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report was published in December 2020, after the year experienced one of the three highest annual temperatures on record [1]. This fifth annual UNEP Report focuses on nations and their advanced climate adaptation strategies,  including Nature Based Solutions (NBSs (Nature-based Solutions), which aim to ensure a balance can be achieved between society and sustaining biodiversity [2].

The report created by the UNEP notes that several advancements have been made in nations across the globe that can be categorised as high-income countries (HIC)  in terms of planning for the protection of climate change; however, these advancements are not reflected universally [3]. Despite these high-income  countries securing measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, this trend is not reflected in low-income countries (LICs)  due to disparities in finances and social mobility within the countries. The report states that this issue will not resolve itself. Instead, action must be taken proactively to ensure that ‘real protection’ against climate change can be developed, such as effective flood defences to combat rising sea levels [4]. 

The Paris 2050 Targets are a set of initiatives to limit global warming to below 2 °C , with ambitious efforts aiming to limit this to  1.5 °C [5]. Targets have not only been set for 2050 but also 2030, where the Paris Agreement developed a global framework to help countries ‘strengthen their ability to deal with climate change’ [5]. However, despite these targets being reiterated in the UNEP Gap Report for the 2050 Goals, they do not appear to be on track for success and are not set to achieve the goals set in place by 2030 [6]. This has been reflected by findings by the National Geographic, which states that  ‘the majority of the carbon emission reduction pledges for 2030 that 184 countries made under the Paris Agreement aren’t nearly enough to keep global warming well below 3.6 °C’ [6]. 

Considering the reduction pledges so far are not being achieved, the goals for 2050 therefore appear to be unrealistic and not on track to prove successful. As a result, more positive action must be taken, and more needs to be done to prevent the situation from worsening. Therefore, more investment into LICs and tighter regulatory authority is required to limit  global warming to the minimum 2 °C target. Furthermore, stated goals do not seem achievable especially with regards to LICs,. As the Gap Report states, there is a vast disparity in the success that can be achieved due to wealth inequality within these countries, in comparison to HICs. Despite China and India pledging to lower their carbon output emissions, it has been discovered that, by 2030, they will have higher emissions than they currently do [6]. This trend, however, is not specific  to two countries; instead, research shows that of 184 countries that pledged carbon reduction under the Paris Agreement, 75% of those countries’ pledges were insufficient to meet the target goal of 2 °C [5,3]. 

Through analysis of the Paris Targets in conjunction with the targets set out by UNEP, it appears the climate disaster is imminent, with climate change not being taken seriously enough and emissions potentially resulting in warming of above 3 °C [7].  Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, has commented concerning the UNEP Goals ‘that current levels of climate ambition are not on track to meet our Paris Agreement goals’ [7]. Thus, more investment must be made in countries to encourage further action to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis [7]. 

Alongside the Paris Agreements and the UNEP Goals, countries across the globe have also committed to ‘Green Recovery’. One of the countries ‘committed’ to this new recovery is the UK; however, when compared to other countries, the green package the government has announced has been regarded as modest. In contrast to Germany and France, the UK appears to have a weak structure to lower carbon emissions in terms of funding. The UK makes a €17.3 billion investment compared to Germany’s €27.5 billion investment in green recovery initiatives [9]. Again, it appears that countries are simply not doing enough to meet the UNEP 2050 Goals of recovery: despite the fact that Green  Recovery is a separate initiative, the goals reflected across the countries are similar. Lowering carbon emissions and limiting warming to 2 °C are shared targets, yet all efforts and statements appear to fail [9].

Overall, it appears the goals set by the UNEP Gap Report for 2050 only seem to be achievable by large-scale investment in developing countries, and measures established in developed countries that will limit carbon output emissions. [9]. 


[1] World Meteorological Organization, “2020 was one of three warmest years on record”, January 15th 2021,, accessed 29/09/2021.
[2] Gordon-Harper, Gabriel, “UNEP’s Adaptation Gap Report Focuses on Nature-based Solutions”, International Institute for Sustainable Development IISD, January 5th 2021,, accessed 29/09/2021.
[3] Hausfather, Zeke, “UNEP: Net-zero pledges to provide an ‘opening’ to close growing emissions ‘gap’”, Carbon Brief Clear on Climate, December 9th 2020,, accessed 29/09/2021. 
[4]  UNEP, UNEP DTU Partnership, World Adaptation Science Programme (WASP), “Adaptation Gap Report 2020”, UN Environmental Programme, January 14th 2021,, accessed 29/09/2021.[5] European Commission, ‘Paris Agreement Climate Emissions,’, accessed 04/10/2021.
[6] Leahy, Stephen, ‘Most countries aren’t hitting 2030 climate goals, and everyone will pay the price’, National Geographic, November 5th 2019,, accessed 04/10/2021.
[7] United Nations Climate Change, ‘Climate Commitments Not On Track to Meet Paris Agreement Goals” as NDC Synthesis Report is Published’, February 26th 2021,, accessed 04/10/2021.
[8] Institute for Government, ‘ Building a green recovery’,, accessed 04/10/2021.
[9] The University of Manchester, ‘The UK’s green recovery falls well short of its European counterparts’, July 5th 2021, The UK’s green recovery falls well short of its European counterparts, accessed 04/10/2021.

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