Measures to limit climate change and prevent disasters fall short, says UN report

Measures to limit climate change and prevent disasters fall short, says UN report

When government representatives from nearly every country in the world meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on November 6 for the next United Nations climate change conference, COP27, they will gather under a cloud.

A new United Nations report shows that pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of climate change are falling short of their goals.

Only 24 of the 193 signatories to the 2021 COP26 agreement in Glasgow, Scotland, signed an agreement this year to “review and strengthen” their commitments, the report concluded. A year ago, global emissions were projected to increase by 13.7% by 2030 from 2010 levels, based on estimates of 2021 NDCs (nationally determined contributions). synthesis report From the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the NDC synthesis report released on WednesdayBy 2030, emissions will increase by 10.6%.

With less than two weeks to go before the next round of talks, the world’s nations are still far from the trajectory the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed to prevent catastrophic climate change: a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030.

The resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh will host the COP27 summit next month

The Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh will host the COP27 summit next month. (Syed Shisha/Reuters)

The IPCC found that limiting warming to 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit is necessary to prevent the devastating effects of climate change, which would lead to dangerous feedback loops such as mass deforestation and melting glaciers, resulting in even higher temperatures. But the pledges made in Glasgow will limit warming to 2.2°C if all recent pledges are met and the 1.1°C (2°F) already reached. 2.7°C is based on current policy According to the UN, the latest synthesis report shows little improvement, as current national plans put the world on track to warm between 2.1°C and 2.9°C by 2100.

“The downward trend in emissions by 2030 shows that countries have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, in a statement accompanying the report. “But the science is clear and so are our climate targets in the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emissions reductions needed to achieve a 1.5°C world. To stay on target, national governments must step up their climate action plans now and implement them over the next eight years.”

For a small island nation like Barbados, the warming estimates in the new UN assessment pose an existential threat.

“Two degrees is a death sentence,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said. Said in Glasgow.

Almost all COP26 participants recognized the need to strengthen commitments to reduce emissions.

“[The actions in Glasgow] to take important steps, but, unfortunately, the collective political will was not enough,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. video statement released at the end of last year’s conference. “We must accelerate climate action to keep the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. … COP27 starts now.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks in Glasgow, Scotland, November 2021. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

“It’s all very well for leaders to claim they have a net zero goal, but if they don’t have a plan for how to get there and their 2030 goals are as low as most of them are, then frankly, goal zero is just a buzzword for real climate action. There’s a lot of uncertainty in Glasgow,” said Bill Hare, CEO of non-profit research organization Climate Analytics, at the end of last year’s conference.

Representatives of small island nations in the Pacific, many of which could become uninhabitable if climate change continues unabated, expressed their disappointment at the closing session in Glasgow. “Our land is disappearing fast: Tuvalu is sinking. We must act now.” said Seve PaeniuFinance Minister of Tuvalu.

And so they, along with their allies in the climate activist community, called for a new phase of action in 2022. “Countries must come to COP27 with plans to meet the 1.5°C target, which is a red line for our region,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific COP26 Pacific Delegate Shiva Gunden Said in Glasgow. “Anything less will be yet another betrayal of the brave and resilient peoples of the Pacific.”

Typically, new agreements are negotiated every five years — the Glasgow Accord was preceded by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. (The COVID-19 pandemic.) The annual conferences in between are usually smaller issues to implement and measure agreement rather than high-level negotiations on new actions. But activists and representatives of the most vulnerable countries have said since COP26 that COP27 must break with that tradition and initiate stronger measures to divest fossil fuels and bend the world’s emissions trajectory further and faster.

Protesters marched ahead of the UN Climate Summit in Brussels

On October 23, around 25,000 protested in Brussels ahead of the UN climate change conference. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Heads of state at the Pacific Islands Forum in July called high-emitting countries must submit plans to significantly reduce emissions by COP27. Now, as COP27 approaches, Guterres is beating the drum for countries to make strong pledges to cut emissions and strengthen policies to ensure they meet those targets. “Taken together, current pledges and policies close the door on our ability to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, let alone meet the 1.5°C target.” Guterres said at a press conference at UN headquarters in New York earlier this month. “On any climate front, the only solution is decisive action in cooperation. COP27 is a place for all the countries led by the G-20 to show that they are in this fight and together.” The G-20 represents the world’s 20 largest economies, which are jointly responsible. about 75% current carbon emissions.

Some of the calls for stronger measures have come from the wealthiest countries themselves. The Environment Committee of the European Parliament in March called The European Union and all G-20 countries “commit to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets ahead of COP27”.

But experts say that this hope is unlikely to be justified. Instead, they say, countries are mostly trying to bridge the gap between existing but insufficient promises to dramatically reduce emissions over the next few decades and policies that have yet to guarantee they will deliver. For example, a country that has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but has not pledged a 50% reduction by 2030, and has no clear plan to reach net-zero by mid-century, could announce at COP27. it would, say, create a new solar subsidy program to help transition away from fossil fuels.

A chimney at the Linden Cogeneration Plant in New Jersey

Chimney at the Linden Cogeneration Plant in New Jersey. (Kena Betancourt/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)

Of course, several key countries have updated their NDCs since Glasgow. In August, India has increased aims to deploy clean energy, but it continues to commit to certain emissions levels. After Australia a change of governmentissued a new NDC promising to cut emissions 43% down 2005 levels by 2030, higher than previous pledges to cut 26%-28%. All eyes are on Brazil, where the second round of elections will be held on October 31 can be installed a more pro-environment president who has pledged to strengthen the nation’s climate plans.

“Australia has increased its targets,” Peter Ogden, the UN Fund’s vice president for energy, climate and environment, told Yahoo News. “India has also updated its NDC. Egypt has updated its NDC. So you have some countries taking steps in that direction. But I think that for other countries, like the United States, that a year ago saw themselves as ambitious but achievable goals, their contribution would be to try to accelerate as much as possible the path to additional implementation and goal achievement. . That’s where the momentum is.”

Then there are the domestic politics of individual countries, such as China, which has the world’s largest population and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. In Glasgow, China promised achieving carbon neutrality only by 2060, 10 years behind the United States and other top emitters.

Historically, as a much poorer country than the United States and many European countries, China has resisted making climate commitments on a par with countries that have grown rich through carbon-intensive industrialization and have emissions far higher than China’s per capita emissions. It was considered a major diplomatic breakthrough in Glasgow, China and the US announced the agreement to collectively reduce their methane emissions and make every effort to reduce coal use this decade.

“If we can stay below 1.5°C, there’s no way we can do the math that China won’t significantly reduce its emissions this decade,” said Jake Schmidt, director of the International Climate Program at Nature. Resource Defense Council.

A resident fishes as a coal-fired power plant operates on November 11, 2021 in Hangchuan, Hubei Province, China.  (Stringer/Getty Images)

A coal-fired power plant in Hangzhou, China. (Stringer/Getty Images)

But now China’s relationship with the United States and much of the West is strained over its territorial dispute. Claiming Taiwan to its alignment with Russia. “I think [it is] Impossible for COP27,” Schmidt said of China’s new climate commitments this year. “I think US-China has muddied the waters a bit by spitting on Taiwan.”

Schmidt is not pessimistic that China will cut emissions quickly in the coming years, noting that China may still implement the policy domestically, as it promised to do in Egypt this year. But hopes that COP27 will conclude with a grand new deal to close the emissions gap will be dashed if China does not step forward.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also made it difficult for some countries to make new plans to cut fossil fuel production. European countries are looking for alternatives to Russian gas, they are considering new ways to import gas from other countries, including the USA and African countries.

But at least one thing has gone right lately in the fight against climate change. USA, the largest in the world accumulated carbon polluter, President Biden took his first major legislative action to reduce emissions when he signed the Inflation Reduction Act. The law includes $369 billion over 10 years to deploy clean energy technology and electrify sectors such as transportation and heating, putting the country on track to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030.

“The fact that the United States has begun to demonstrate that it is on track to meet ambitious climate goals is central to the international response to climate change,” Schmidt said. “China, other countries, they have rightly pointed out that the US is negotiating a big game, but has yet to deliver. So it gives the U.S. a much stronger foothold to show that it’s serious about climate change.”

Cover thumbnail image: Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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