But there are signs of hope.
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York there were discussions along with “Covid-19,” “climate,” and both the US and China announced new commitments to combat the crisis, suggesting that the world’s two biggest Emitters may be willing to cooperate and take over. More daring action.
Here’s everything you need to know about the crucial UN climate conference in November, and what world leaders hope to achieve.
What is COP26?
COP, short for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, is an event that takes place annually, although it was postponed last year due to the pandemic. World leaders participate, but there is a lot of discussion between ministers and other high-level officials working on climate issues. 26 means that this is the 26th meeting of the group.
Conferences are large-scale events with many side meetings that attract people from the business sector, fossil fuel companies, climate activists and other groups with a stake in the climate crisis. Some of them are successful – for example, the Paris Agreement ended during COP21 – and some are painfully unproductive.
More than 190 countries signed the Paris Agreement after the COP21 meeting in 2015 to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, but preferably up to 1.5 degrees.
Scientists see 2 degrees as a critical threshold where extreme weather will turn some of the world’s most densely populated areas into uninhabited deserts or fill them with ocean water.
Although the Paris Agreement was a landmark moment for tackling the climate crisis, it did not include details of how the world would achieve its goal. Subsequent COPs have called for making the associated plans more ambitious and for a detailed course of action.
“On paper, the Paris Agreement was always designed as a cyclical process – ‘meet in five years, with better plans and new efforts,'” said Lola Vallejo, climate program director at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. . “So right now, we are on this deadline, which has been pushed back by Covid.”
What are the goals?
British Member of Parliament and COP26 President Alok Sharma has said he wants this year’s conference to agree on several key goals, including:
- Aiming to be “1.5 alive”, A goal that some fossil fuel-producing countries have resisted, at least in terms of reinforcing the language surrounding it in any agreement.
- setting an expiration date for the use of “uninterrupted” coal, That leaves the possibility of continuing to use some coal as long as most of the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are captured, preventing them from entering the atmosphere. Some scientists and activist groups have said that all coal should be sent down in history.
- to provide annual climate funding of $100 billion, Wealthy countries that agreed to help developing countries reduce fossil fuel emissions and adapt to the effects of the crisis.
- To make all new car sales zero emissions within 14-19 years.
- ending deforestation by the end of the decade, Because forests play an important role in removing carbon from the atmosphere.
- reducing emissions from methane, A powerful gas that has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.
What is ‘Net Zero’ and why is everyone talking about it?
Many countries have committed to reaching “net zero” by mid-century. Net zero occurs when the amount of greenhouse gas emitted does not exceed the amount removed from the atmosphere.
To achieve net zero, countries and companies would need to rely on natural methods – such as forests – to extract the same amount of carbon, or use a technology known as carbon capture and storage, in which Involves the removal of carbon at the source. emissions before entering the atmosphere. The carbon would then be stored or buried underground.
The good news is that a UN report from August found that global warming could be controlled by about 1.5°C if the world were to reach zero by mid-century.
But some scientists and activists say that net zero targets are dangerous.
Climate policy, Aditi Sen said, “The problem with net zero targets, by a range of companies and governments, is that many of them are really vague and there is a risk that it becomes a cover for business as usual. ” Lead in Oxfam America. “What really gets us to 1.5 degrees is aggressively cutting emissions over the next nine years.”
There are renewable and green alternatives to many of the largest sources of emissions. Vehicles with combustion engines can be replaced with electric cars. Coal power plants may be shut down in favor of producing renewable energy from things like wind and solar.
But eliminating some emissions is difficult, even impossible. For example, the world does not yet have a clean way to make steel on a large scale, although some small enterprises are doing so. Those emissions would need to be offset by removing carbon from the atmosphere.
What is the role of America and China here?
Many COPs have derailed the relationship between the US and China.
For years, the US would not support the Kyoto Protocol, which preceded Paris, until China signed it. The agreement did not initially require China, India, Brazil and other developing economies to reduce emissions.
This is a U-turn from the years of the previous US administration, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement.
Xi also said that China would start transferring money to developing countries as well, which would increase China’s status in future talks.
The announcements bring China and the US closer to a step on climate action and could be a harbinger of future progress between the two countries. US climate envoy John Kerry is pressing China to be more ambitious in its emissions targets, which currently see emissions peak before 2030 and reach net zero by 2060.
Which other countries should I look for?
Under the Paris Agreement, countries submitted their pledges to cut emissions, also known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs. All signatories were supposed to update their NDCs by July 31 this year, but about 70 have yet to do so.
Russia, a major fossil fuel producer, is another country that observers are concerned about. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country was committed to the cause, the plan presented by Russia was described by experts as not amounting to meaningful change.
India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among the countries that missed the July 31 deadline. China has announced a new target, but has not formally submitted it to the United Nations.
Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and many other countries have failed to raise their targets, presenting 2030 targets similar or even less ambitious than the targets they set in 2015.
“We are really looking forward to coming up with new and increased commitments from countries,” Vallejo said.
“Some countries have not submitted pledges or those that have submitted pledges, a good portion are still insufficient, most do not conform to 1.5.”
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