Just few days to the most important meeting on climate.
At the beginning of August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the summary of its report, which will be the technical document on which all climate negotiations will be based at the upcoming COP 26, the 26th United Nations conference on climate change to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 31 October to 12 November. The report states, among other things, that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming to around 1.5°C or even 2°C will be out of reach and the probability of exceeding 1.5°C of warming in the years immediately following 2030 is more than fifty percent. In the run-up to the annual summit, the participating nations are updating and presenting their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which states the climate targets they each set themselves independently and voluntarily, with the aim of contributing to keeping global temperature growth below 2°C, aiming to limit it to 1.5°C. What should we expect from the next Cop 26?
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The current situation.
According to the Climate Change Performance Index, a monitoring tool used to objectively and transparently describe and assess international climate change achieved annually by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network, no country is currently on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Before the Agreement was adopted, only a few countries had set zero emission targets, but now, five years later, there are many more; the first were European countries and small islands, followed by the European Union, which in March 2020 put forward a proposal to achieve zero emissions by 2050. According to the Emission Gas Report 2020, compiled and released by the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency, which assesses the gap between projected emissions and levels consistent with the Paris Agreement targets, some countries are committing to adopting policies to protect the environment, while others such as China, which retains the record of the world's most polluting country followed by the United States, continue to be at the bottom of the list. Twenty-five of the world's cities are said to be responsible for 52% of total greenhouse gas emissions, including in Asia Handan, Shanghai and Suzhou in China and Tokyo in Japan, and between Asia and Europe Moscow in Russia and Istanbul in Turkey. Also of concern are Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea, which plan their energy future with natural gas, also implicated in the damaging greenhouse effect, Australia, the world's largest gas exporter, which continues to invest in pipeline expansion as well as the European Union, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are heavily dependent on petroleum.
The 'Nationally Determined Contribution'- NDC.
Under the Paris Agreement, governments agreed that each successive NDC, a document stating the climate targets that individual nations set themselves in order to help maintain global temperature growth, should be a step up from the previous one. With only a few weeks to go before the deadline for submitting new NDCs, only eighty-six countries and the European Union have already submitted new targets, while seventy countries have not yet submitted any targets; not updating the NDC by 2021 is a clear violation of the Paris Agreement and its provisions. Many NDCs already submitted are not compatible with the 1.5°C target and zero emissions by 2050, several countries are still reluctant to set targets, and many poor countries are still looking to invest in coal.
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A summary of the commitments stated in some NDCs presented.
The UK has increased its climate commitment in the last six months, setting more ambitious targets in the NDC than its previous ones which, if achieved, would bring it in line with the requirements of the Paris agreements. The United States, the only nation to officially withdraw from the Paris Plan thanks to the actions of ex-President Trump, changed its approach after Biden's victory. The country has rejoined the agreement and the new president has declared his intention to make the US climate neutral by 2050; the new NDC, presented in April 2021, is stronger than the previous one. The EU has taken a number of steps towards climate mitigation in recent years, but targets are still inadequate, as is investment. A limitation of the EU is that the states within the Union move autonomously in implementing measures and many don't meet the established benchmarks. In Italy, for example, the slowdown in the development of renewable energies and an inadequate national climate policy are distancing the country from the objectives set at European level. Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations in September last year that his country would achieve zero net emissions by 2060 and that the peak would be reached before 2030. Xi Jinping also announced at the climate summit in April this year that China would strictly control coal consumption until 2025, when its use should start to gradually decline. Russia's latest NDC calls for a reduction in emissions by 2030 of at least 30% below 1990 levels, which is far from sufficient given that no official target date has been set.
Some considerations ahead of Cop 26.
The countries that have not yet committed to an emissions reduction programme account for 37% of total emissions and it's safe to assume that they'll continue to do so: without their commitment the 1.5°C target will never be reached. If the average global temperature rises by even 2°C, we could see a significant increase in extreme weather events such as intense heat waves, heavy rainfall, flooding and widespread drought; fires would become more frequent and sea levels would rise, putting coastal areas and small islands at risk of flooding and storm surges. Hundreds of millions of people would be forced to migrate from areas that have become inhospitable, while viruses would find a more hospitable climate to spread. Alok Sharma, president of Cop 26 said after the pre-Cop 26 meetings in Milan: "What we've heard has put world leaders to shame. There's no doubt that young people around the world will hold them to account if we are unable to credibly demonstrate at Cop 26 that we've contained temperature growth to within 1.5°C".
If the premises are as declared by the nations in their respective NDCs, and the roads to the energy of the future will still be littered with coal, petroleum and natural gas for a long time to come, then Cop 26 will also be another wasted opportunity, a new dead end! What's the point of "asking for an account" after the event, without having the possibility of going back and restoring the lost living conditions? Nothing...the damage is already done!