Seven years after the latest report by scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the current assessment follows devastating rains in China and Germany and sweltering temperatures in Canada.
“We have always warned that all of this could come,” Patricia Espinosa, the UN chief on climate change, said during Monday’s opening ceremony.
For Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, this report is “important to the success of the climate conference in Glasgow (Scotland) in November”.
Less than a hundred days before the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Espinosa warned that we are not “on track to respect the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to +1.5°C until the end of the century”.
“In fact, we are on the opposite path, we are heading towards more than +3°C. We must urgently change direction before it is too late.”
Espinosa also described the meeting on Sunday and Monday in London, with representatives from more than 50 countries, as “very positive” to prepare for COP26 in November.
A passing interest?
Despite the horrific images of natural disasters, some fear that this renewed interest in the climate will be temporary and the November summit will not end with meaningful bargains.
Right now, everyone is talking about a climate emergency, and for good reason. But when these tragedies are over, we will likely forget them again and go on as before,” said activist Greta Thunberg, who has mobilized millions of young people in recent years to demand significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from governments.
The IPCC report, due for publication on August 9, whose conclusions will be carefully negotiated for political leaders over a two-week period, must update its assessment and climate projections on rising temperatures, ocean levels and intensification of extreme events.
In addition, two more parts are due to be published in early 2022, one of which shows how the Earth will change in 30 years or even sooner, a preliminary version of which has been obtained by AFP. But this section will be released after COP26.
With the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, almost all countries on the planet committed to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions to limit global warming “significantly below” +2°C compared to the pre-industrial era and, if possible, +1,5°C.
Less than +1.5 degrees Celsius?
The +1.5°C goal has become a priority for many activists and policy makers, especially when the planet has gained about 1.1°C since the Industrial Revolution and every extra tenth counts because it brings extreme phenomena.
But is it achievable? This is one of the questions that the IPCC report will have to answer, based on thousands of scientific studies.
Some doubt that it can happen, others – sometimes wanting to avoid frustration – say it’s not impossible.
“Limiting warming to +1.5°C is still physically, technically and economically feasible. But not for long if we keep moving a bit and too late,” estimates Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace.
Joyce Msuya, deputy executive director for the environment at the United Nations, insisted Monday that “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us what the ambition should be: for every country in the world to commit to carbon neutrality and articulate a plan to make it happen.”
To achieve this goal, emissions must be reduced by an average of 7.6% each year between 2020 and 2030, according to the United Nations. In 2020 they fell due to the pandemic but are expected to rise again.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), given the low percentage of planned measures to promote clean energy, even predicts record emissions by 2023.
“But if we don’t succeed, 1.6°C is better than 1.7°C, and 1.7°C is better than 1.8°C,” says climate scientist Robert Vautard, one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
2020 restrictions [por el covid-19] It included a reduction in emissions from 6% to 7%. And if we want to cut emissions by 40% or 50% in 2030, we already see the work ahead.”