Do you remember the Cop25? If so, it’s probably not for the right reasons. The last UN climate summit, held in Madrid in 2019, was characterized by quarrels between major polluting nations and ultimately a disappointing lack of action.
Now at the dawn of Cop26 in Glasgow – postponed for a year due to the Covid pandemic – there is an even narrower window to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, designed to curb climatic extremes even more important.
Countries must commit to drastically reducing their global heat emissions to keep global temperature rise at an increasingly ambitious level of 1.5 Â° C since pre-industrial times, or “well below”. 2 Â° C. Currently, the world has heated by about 1.1 Â° C.
Prior to the Paris Agreement, the world was heading for a temperature rise close to 4C, and although that has dropped, it is still hitting above 3C this century. The World Meteorological Organization reported on Monday that greenhouse gas concentrations reached an all-time high last year and increased at a faster rate than the annual average of the past decade, despite a temporary reduction during lockdowns of Covid.
While it’s clear that more action can’t come fast enough, there have been glimmers of good news since the last summit.
No more doubts about the climate crisis – and experts are clear on what needs to be done
Since 2013, the vast majority of scientists (97%) have agreed that the climate crisis is largely caused by humans burning fossil fuels.
This figure is now even higher. Research published last week by Cornell University found that 99.9% of studies now claim the climate crisis is man-made, on par with scientific certainty of evolution.
It echoes an assessment in August by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading authority on climate science, which for the first time called “unequivocal” that influence human has warmed the atmosphere, the oceans and the land.
The path to reducing emissions is also mapped out in even clearer terms.
The International Energy Agency, which has analyzed global energy consumption over the past half-century, said in May that there was no room for new oil, gas and coal projects if the world was to meet its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
In a one-of-a-kind project, the Net Zero roadmap also called for a global halt to the sale of new fossil-fueled boilers by 2025, new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, and the transition to a global electricity grid without emissions by 2040..
Every gesture counts, notes the IPCC. “We are not doomed,” said Dr Friederike Otto, author of the IPCC report and associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. The independent earlier this year.
Clean energy grows fast
Solar and wind renewables combined accounted for 1.7 percent of the world’s electric power in 2010, reports the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research organization. In 2020, that figure was 8.7%, a much bigger jump than energy experts predicted.
The cost of renewables has dropped dramatically over the past decade as technology has improved and production has increased. The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy fell 85% from 2010, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Program promises are being updated
Although they still exist mainly on paper, more and more countries have offered âNationally Determined Contributionsâ (NDCs), commitments by countries to reduce their emissions.
The original NDCs are not enough to meet the 1.5 Â° C target, so the Paris Agreement has a “ratchet mechanism”, which means that each country must come up with a bolder reduction target. emissions every five years. The Cop26 is the first major test of the performance of the Paris Agreement.
Currently, only The Gambia has offered an NDC compatible with 1.5C, according to Climate Action Tracker. Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria and the UK have set ânear sufficientâ NDCs.
Overall, some 131 countries have advanced or are on track to meet emission reduction targets, covering almost three quarters (72%) of global emissions.
If the plans are fully implemented, it “opens the window” to meeting the Paris targets, according to a new report, keeping the temperature rise to 2-2.4 Â° C by 2100. But the report noted that what is important now are concrete actions – especially this decade.
(Baby) steps by the other biggest polluters in the world
The world’s biggest polluters are not doing enough, fast enough, to meet the Paris targets. But there have been small steps in the right direction.
New plans emerged before Cop26. Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September that the country, the world’s biggest polluter, will no longer build coal-fired power plants abroad.
âChina will step up support to other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy and will not build new overseas coal-fired power projects,â he told the rally. world leaders. However, there was no commitment to curtail China’s burgeoning domestic coal production.
In 2020, China announced that it will âstriveâ to peak carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
Russia, the fourth-largest emitter whose economy relies heavily on fossil fuels, has also set a target of 2060.
Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, said over the weekend it aimed to achieve “net zero emissions” by 2060 – but again with no indication the kingdom would slow down emissions. oil and gas investments abroad. Another petro-state, the United Arab Emirates, has pledged to reach a goal of net zero by 2050.
The United States is back in the game
Joe Biden won last November’s election in part thanks to his bold vision to chart a greener future for America amid worsening climate extremes.
He joins the Paris Agreement abandoned by Donald Trump; hosted a virtual climate summit for world leaders at the White House and announced at the UNGA that the United States would double climate finance funding for the poorest countries.
He has also installed an army of climate experts in government agencies and sent Special Envoy John Kerry on a world tour to spark ambition to reduce global warming emissions.
But his national emissions reduction program is being roughed up by members of his own party, raising questions about the strength of the US president’s negotiating position when he arrives in Glasgow.
Ordinary people stand up
Global climate protests have taken on a new urgency and are led by young people around the world.
As the pandemic has slowed, the past few weeks have seen renewed pressure from the streets calling on businesses and government to act.
A Pew survey conducted last month of 17 advanced economies in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region revealed deep concern about the climate crisis among populations. The poll found that most people were willing to change the way they live and work if it could make a difference in the climate crisis.
This renewed energy is not limited to marches and sit-ins, people carry their demands to voting booths.
In countries across Europe, there is growing support for politicians who say they are up to the challenges. Months after catastrophic floods stunned Germany, for example, the Green Party won the most votes on record, moving closer to the country’s two biggest parties.
In the United States, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is holding firm on demands for initiatives to deal with the climate crisis after rallying supporters behind Joe Biden in the presidential primaries and in the election against Mr. Trump.