A new UN report that takes stock of climate action with respect to the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement has shone new light on how we continue to come up short. Among the key points are that, after stabilizing for three years, global carbon emissions are again on the rise and have now reached record levels, prompting calls for further action in efforts to close the gap.

The UN Environment's Emissions Gap Report is the body's definitive annual assessment on the void between projected carbon emissions in the year 2030, and what are seen as the levels required to keep global warming to 2° C (3.6° F) above pre-industrial levels, a threshold experts consider the bare minimum to avoid the worst affects of climate change.

Prepared by an international team of scientists, the report's release comes hot on the heels of this week's US government Fourth National Climate Assessment, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) special report released in October. Both of these offered a rather grim outlook on the health of the planet, and the 2018 Emissions Gap Report does little to buck the trend.

"If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation," says UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. "The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we've seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We're feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach."

According to the team's analysis, current trends will likely lead to global warming of around 3° C (5.4 F) by the end of the century, from which point temperatures will continue to rise. Key to this is that after stalling for three years, global emissions reached historic levels in 2017 and are showing no signs of abating. The authors claim the emissions gap is now larger than ever, and that only 57 countries are on track to reach peak emissions (and then begin to decrease) by 2030.

But it's not all doom and gloom. The report also offers some insights into how the planet can be set on a healthier path, pointing to an increasing commitment to climate action from governments around the world, as well as education institutions and the private sector. With that said, the authors make no bones about the task at hand, concluding that nations around the world must triple their current efforts in order to meet the 2° C target.

"When governments embrace fiscal policy measures to subsidize low-emission alternatives and tax fossil fuels, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions." said Jian Liu, UN Environment's Chief Scientist. "Thankfully, the potential of using fiscal policy as an incentive is increasingly recognized, with 51 carbon pricing initiatives now in place or scheduled, covering roughly 15 percent of global emissions. If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10 percent by 2030. Setting the right carbon price is also essential. At US$70 per ton of CO2, emission reductions of up to 40 percent are possible in some countries."

The video below highlights some of the report's key findings.