(CNN) – COP26, the summit to tackle the struggle against climate crisis Which will be held in Glasgow next November, comes at the most important moment.
A report on the current state facing the planet published by the United Nations in August showed that global temperature is rising faster than scientists previously thought, and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least half this time. A decade is crucial to avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. .
Deadly wildfires and floods in many parts of the world have left no doubt that climate change does exist and is reaching every corner of the earth. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on world leaders to act, warning that humanity is on its way to a climate “catastrophe”.
But there are signs of hope.
Besides COVID-19, “climate” was one of the highlights at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where the United States and China announced new commitments to tackle the crisis. This suggests that the world’s two largest exporters may be willing to cooperate and take bolder action.
That’s all you need to know about the important UN climate conference in November and what world leaders hope to achieve.
What is COP26?
COP is an acronym for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. It’s an annual event, although it was postponed last year due to the pandemic. World leaders attend, but much discussion is taking place 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 events with many side meetings that attract people from business, fossil fuel companies, climate activists, and other groups. Some are successful – the Paris Agreement was finalized during COP21, for example – and others are painfully fruitless.
More than 190 countries signed the Paris Agreement after the COP21 meeting in 2015, to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, preferably 1.5 degrees.
Half a degree may not seem like much of a difference, but scientists say that any further increase beyond 1.5 degrees will lead to more frequent and intense weather fluctuations. For example, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees could reduce 420 million people’s repeated exposure to extreme heat waves, according to the United Nations.
Although the Paris Agreement was a milestone in the search for solutions to the climate crisis, it did not include details of how the world would achieve its goal. Subsequent COPs have sought to make accompanying plans more ambitious and to detail courses of action.
“On paper, the Paris Agreement was designed as a cyclical process: See you in five years, with better plans and renewed efforts,” said Lola Vallejo, director of the climate program at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. “So now we’re on that deadline, we’re delayed because of the coronavirus.”
What are the goals of COP26?
Alok Sharma, the British Member of Parliament and chair of COP26, said he wanted this year’s conference to reach agreement on several key goals, including:
- Keep Target 1.5 AliveIt is a goal that some fossil fuel-producing countries have resisted, at least in terms of promoting the language associated with it in any deal.
- Set an expiration date for charcoal use, which leaves open the possibility that some coal can continue to be used, as long as most greenhouse gas emissions are captured from fossil fuels, preventing them from entering the atmosphere. Some scholars and activist groups have argued that coal should go down in history.
- Set a deadline for using charcoal without capturing and storing technology (Coal Relentless).
- Provide $100 billion in annual financing for climate policyIt is something rich nations have agreed to help developing countries reduce fossil fuel emissions and adapt to the effects of the crisis.
- Make all new cars sold in the 14-19 year period zero-emissions.
- End deforestation by the end of the decadeWhere forests play an important role in removing carbon from the atmosphere
- Reduce methane emissionsIt is a powerful gas with heating energy over 80 times that 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 is when the amount of greenhouse gases emitted is not greater than the amount removed from the atmosphere.
To achieve net zero, countries and companies will have to rely on natural methods – such as forests – to remove the same amount of carbon they emit, or use techniques known as carbon capture and storage, which involves removing carbon at the source that is emitted before it can enter the atmosphere. The carbon is then stored or buried underground.
The good news is that a United Nations report released in August found that if the world reached net zero by mid-century, global warming could be contained at around 1.5°C.
But some scholars and activists say net-zero targets are dangerous.
“The problem with net-zero targets, both for businesses and governments, is that many of them are really lazy and there is a risk that they will become some kind of cover (to continue) business as usual,” said Aditi Sen, climate specialist. Policy Leader at Oxfam America. “What really brings us to 1.5 degrees is we’re cutting emissions aggressively now, over the next nine years.”
There are green and renewable alternatives to many of the biggest sources of emissions. Cars with combustion engines can be replaced by electric cars. Coal power plants can be shut down, making way for renewable energy generation from wind and solar power.
But it is difficult, or even impossible, to eliminate some emissions. For example, the world does not yet have a clean way to make steel on a large scale, although some smaller companies do. These emissions will likely need to be compensated for by removing carbon from the atmosphere.
What is the role of the United States and China?
The relationship between the United States and China has derailed many of the POPs.
For years, the United States has defined not support for the Kyoto Protocol, which preceded the Paris Agreement, unless China signed it. However, that deal did not initially require China, India, Brazil and other developing economies to cut emissions.
However, the events at the UN General Assembly gave reason for hope. US President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he will double the United States’ financial commitment to help developing countries tackle the climate crisis to $11.4 billion annually. You’ll need congressional approval to allocate that money.
This means a clear reversal from previous years, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also made a big announcement on Tuesday: He said his country would not build any new coal-fired energy projects abroad. Although China itself remains the world’s largest consumer of coal, this announcement effectively ends a long history of Chinese financing of coal plants in places such as Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
Xi also said China will start transferring funds to developing countries, raising China’s profile in future talks.
The ads bring China and the United States closer when it comes to climate action and may herald future progress between the two countries. US climate envoy John Kerry has been urging China to be more ambitious in its emissions cut targets. The country is currently planning to reach its peak emissions before 2030 and net zero by 2060.
What other countries should we be aware of?
Based on the Paris Agreement, countries made their commitments to reduce emissions, also known as the Nationally Determined Contribution or Nationally Determined Contribution. All signatories were supposed to update their NDCs by July 31 this year, but about 70 signatories have yet to do so.
While some of the world’s biggest polluters have given positive signals, many countries appear to be attending the meeting with the goal of opposing more ambitious goals. The Australian government has made no secret that it intends to continue mining coal “beyond 2030”.
Russia, the major producer of fossil fuels, is another country that worries observers. While President Vladimir Putin has said his country is committed to the cause, experts said the plan presented by Russia offers little change.
India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are among the countries that missed the July 31 deadline. China announced a new target, but did not formally present it to the United Nations.
Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and many other countries have not increased their targets, offering the same or even less ambition for 2030 than they did in 2015.
“We really expect countries to come up with new and improved commitments,” Vallejo said.
He explained that “some countries have not made commitments or, (among) those that have made commitments, a large part of them are still insufficient, and most of them are not fully in line with (limit) 1.5.”