The climate summit that could save the planet – or doom it

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World leaders call the upcoming COP26 summit a watershed moment in the fight against climate change. Why is this gathering so critical?

What is COP26?

It’s a imminent summit scheduled for late October in Glasgow, Scotland, during which the United Nations hopes world leaders will make big commitments to harness climate change and control global temperatures. COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” and refers to the 197 nations that accepted the United Nations framework on climate change at a 1992 meeting. The United States and other nations went on to ratify this treaty, in the goal of collectively fighting “dangerous human interference in the climate system”. Work continued with annual COP summits. The first was held in Berlin in 1995; COP3 in 1997 produced the Kyoto Protocol, which sets national emissions targets; and the next meeting is on the 26th, that’s why it’s called COP26. Many leaders, including US climate envoy John Kerry, say the summit could be a turning with the aim of preventing catastrophic damage from climate change.

Why is this meeting so important?

The Paris Agreement, a product of COP21 in 2015, called for keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably no more than 1.5 degrees (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), above the pre-industrial average of 1850-1900. Scientists say reaching the bottom of this range is essential. A UN report released this month found global temperatures are rising faster than previously thought, and warned that cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half this decade is needed to avoid a climate catastrophe. But the Paris agreement lacked the detailed and deep commitments needed to meet its goal of peaking greenhouse gas emissions, which causes temperatures to rise. Environmentalists and scientists warn that without bolder action to reduce emissions it will soon be too late to meet the Paris targets, so they hope COP26 will produce significant new commitments. Kerry and other leaders called COP26 the “last and best chance” to lift the world out of a climate change tipping point.

Is the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees really that big?

An additional half a degree of warming greater than 1.5 degrees would lead to more frequent heat waves, flooding and water shortages for tens of millions of people, according to a recent United Nations report. As The New York Times Remarks: “Half a degree can make the difference between a world with coral reefs and arctic sea ice in summer and a world without them.” If temperatures are allowed to rise by 2 degrees Celsius, crop yields will drop worldwide, with sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America particularly affected.

Can the worst still be avoided?

While it is wishful thinking to wait for miracles from COP26, Alok Sharma, the British lawmaker who is president of COP26, said the summit would be a success if he can keep “1.5 alive.” But governments around the world must act quickly. a International Energy Agency report published this month revealed that the ultimate goal of reduce emissions to “net zero”, where all greenhouse gas emissions are absorbed naturally or artificially, by 2050 it will take more than tripling investments in clean energy projects and infrastructure. Earlier this week, the British government published a study warn the country could face devastating floods increase in river flows and rise in sea levels caused by climate change if Britain does not do more to counter rising temperatures. “It’s adapt or die,” said Emma Howard Boyd, director of the UK Environment Agency. But exceeding the Parisian objective remains avoidable if the world’s biggest polluters cut their emissions now.

What other goals do the organizers have for COP26?

Sharma wants the conference to lead to a multitude of firm agreements. One of them is to set a target date for end coal “relentlessly”, a term that refers to coal burned without capturing its greenhouse gas emissions before they reach the atmosphere. The COP26 president also wants an agreement calling on rich countries to provide $ 100 billion to help developing countries adapt to the transition to cleaner energy. Other goals include transforming the auto industry so that all new cars sold are zero-emission vehicles by 19 years, ending deforestation by 2030, and reducing methane emissions, which has 80 times more warming effect than carbon dioxide. But these are lofty goals, and not everyone believes they are achievable.

Why not?

The fight against climate change has lost momentum in recent years. COP26 has been delayed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. And before that, former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the historic climate deal. President Biden joined the deal and promised to show up in Glasgow “with the bells on”. But there will be 20,000 heads of state, diplomats and activists at the conference, and getting that many to agree on just about anything will not be an easy task. Companies that poured in millions to sponsor the summit and pay for expenses such as a planned $ 345 million police bill have complained that the summit was “Badly managed” and “very last minute”, with “very inexperienced” officials delaying important decisions and blurring communication with stakeholders. And while Biden, Queen Elizabeth, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders plan to be there, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the world’s top polluter, has not pledged to go.

So is there any hope that COP26 will do some good?

Many countries have already made new commitments to reduce their emissions, so there’s a good chance others will step up as well. Seventeen countries, including Japan and the United States, and the European Union have announced new commitments. Biden said America was going reduce emissions by 50 to 52% from 2005 levels in the next decade. Congress will need to pass important legislation, however, to help make Biden’s promise a reality. And more and more nations will have to agree to reduce their emissions at COP26 and in the years to come to keep the 1.5 degree target within reach. So far, the main Chinese polluter has not yet committed to take specific measures to reduce its emissions before COP26. Russia either. And several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia, are already pushing for minimize the need to move away from fossil fuels. “By the time Glasgow is over, we will know who is doing their fair share and who is not.” Kerry said.


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