Thursday, December 2, 2021

Four Key Issues to Watch As World Leaders Prepare for the Glasgow Climate Summit

Glasgow is proudly located on the banks of the Clyde River, which was once the center of industrial fame for Scotland and is now a launching pad for the transition to green energy. This is the right venue for the United Nations climate conference COP26, where world leaders will discuss how their countries will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change.

I have been involved in the climate talks for several years as a former senior UN official and will be in Glasgow for the talks starting October 31, 2021. As the negotiations begin, here’s what to look out for.


At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, countries agreed to work to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) while aiming for 1.5 C (2.7 F). If COP21 in Paris was a destination agreement, then COP26 is a route overview and course correction.

The bad news is that countries are not on the right track. This year, they were required to submit new action plans, known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs. The latest tally of all revised plans presented by the UN ahead of the Glasgow summit puts the world on a 2.7 C (4.86 F) warming trajectory by the end of this century, leading to dangerous levels of climate change.

The UN Environment Emissions Gap Report, published on October 26, 2021, shows that national commitments so far fall far short of the goals of the Paris Agreement. Credit: UNEP.

All eyes are on the G-20, the group of the world’s leading economies, which together account for nearly 80% of global emissions. Their annual summit takes place in Rome on October 30-31, just before the start of COP26.

Several key G-20 countries have yet to submit their updated plans, including India. Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Russia have filed plans that are inconsistent with the Paris Agreement.

Details of how China will meet its climate targets are now emerging, and the world is studying them to see how China strengthens its 2030 emission reduction target, which currently includes a 65% reduction in emissions per unit of gross domestic product, moving towards the date when the growth of the country’s emissions peaks, and setting industrial production targets for other greenhouse gases such as methane.

The delicate dance between the United States and China and French dexterous diplomacy were critical to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Six years later, growing rivalry threatens to spiral into what used to be a race to the top.

Meanwhile, the world’s eyes are on the United States. Opposition from two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, appears to force the Biden administration to abandon a plan that would prompt utilities to move to cleaner energy sources faster. If their planetary knack is teetering on the brink of abandoning this key part of President Joe Biden’s Plan A for how the US will meet its 2030 emissions targets, the world will want to see the details of Plan B, C, or D in Glasgow.

Carbon Markets

One of the remaining challenges of the Paris Conference is to establish rules for carbon markets, in particular how countries can trade carbon credits with each other or between a country and a private company.

Regulated carbon markets exist from the European Union to China, and voluntary markets are both optimistic and worrisome. Rules are needed to ensure that carbon markets actually reduce emissions and generate income for developing countries to protect their resources. Do it right and carbon markets can accelerate the transition to zero. Doing it wrong will undermine the credibility of promises made by both governments and companies.

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Another challenge is to determine how countries measure and report their emission reductions and how transparent they are to each other. This, too, is fundamental to countering green.

Also, expect to see pressure on countries returning in a year or two with better plans to cut emissions and reporting concrete progress.

Climate finance

At the heart of progress on all issues is the issue of finance.

Developing countries need help to grow green and adapt to climate change, and they are frustrated that this aid has been slow to arrive. In 2009 and 2015, rich countries agreed to provide developing countries with $ 100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, but they have not yet reached that goal.

A week before the end, the UK unveiled a climate finance plan, brokered by Germany and Canada, that will set up a process for calculating and agreeing on what amounts to $ 100 billion, but it will take until 2023 to reach that figure.

On the one hand, this is progress, but developing countries, whose adaptation costs must now be covered, will be frustrated as the global costs of climate impacts rise, including from heatwaves, wildfires, floods and intensifying hurricanes, cyclones, etc. typhoons. Just as with the global rollout of the vaccine, the developing world may wonder if they are slowly moving towards a new economic divide, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer.

Beyond the costs of mitigation and adaptation, there is the issue of loss and damage – an innocuous term for the harm done to countries that have done little to address climate change in the past, and the responsibility of countries that caused a climate emergency with their historic emissions. … These difficult negotiations will move closer to the center stage as losses increase.

Public climate finance from countries can also play a different role with its potential to attract the trillions of dollars needed to invest in a clean energy transition and greener growth. Expect large contributions from private funding sources – pension funds, insurance companies, banks, and charities – with their own zero-net-return plans, including ending funding and investment in fossil fuel projects and funding critical efforts to accelerate progress.

Rain of promises

The Glasgow conference will bring together people from around the world to talk about ways to reduce global carbon emissions to zero and improve sustainability.

From emission-free delivery to aviation, from ending coal funding to green steel and cement, from platforms to reduce methane emissions to natural solutions, the two-week conference and the days leading up to it will witness a steady stream of commitments and new groupings of countries, NGOs and businesses. working together.

Tracking and verifying progress towards these commitments will be critical after COP26. Without that, the blah blah blah, uttered by the blah blah blah, climate activist Greta Thunberg, addressed to delegates at a meeting ahead of the US Congress in Milan a few weeks ago, will continue to be heard around the world. …

This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

This article was updated on 26 October when the UNEP Emission Difference Report and Trajectory Chart was released.Talk

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