Home Breaking News After a shaky G20 leaders’ meeting, the COP26 climate talks are off to an ominous start.

After a shaky G20 leaders’ meeting, the COP26 climate talks are off to an ominous start.

by Kingsley Nzeadibe

James Watt, a Scottish engineer, revolutionized the workings of the steam engine in Glasgow, unknowingly kicking off the Industrial Revolution. Never in his wildest dreams could he have guessed that over the next two centuries, people would consume so much coal, oil, and gas that they would endanger the very climate that has allowed them to survive.

More than 120 world leaders will speak in the same city on Monday to kick off the COP26 climate conference, where they will set the standard for two weeks of talks that could result in either a plan to rapidly decarbonize the planet or a series of watered-down statements delaying what the science shows is required, possibly until it’s too late. Climate leaders and experts are hailing it as the world’s final best chance to confront the global warming issue.
The G20 has reached agreement on major climate targets such as global warming limits and coal funding, but no specific pledges have been made.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who is hosting the talks, will warn on Monday that humanity has run out of time to address climate change.
According to remarks supplied to journalists, he will say in an opening speech, “It’s one minute to midnight, and we need to act now.”
“On coal, cars, money, and trees, we must move beyond talk, debate, and discussion to determined, real-world action.” More explicit promises and concrete deadlines for change, not more dreams, ambitions, and aspirations, as valuable as they are.”
The G20 leaders’ summit, which finished on Sunday in Rome, reveals that leaders are finally paying attention to science, but they lack the political unity needed to make the bold steps needed to confront the challenge.
COP26 brings together over 25,000 people for one of the largest international gatherings since the pandemic began, and it comes after a year of harsh weather that cost hundreds of lives in unexpected locations, surprising even climate experts.
What has to be done, according to the most recent UN climate science study, published in August: Limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as much as possible to avoid the climate problem intensifying. To do so, the world must cut emissions in half over the next decade and reach net zero by the middle of the century, when greenhouse gas emissions are equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere.
The G20 leaders’ communiqué contained all of this language, as well as an acknowledgement that, in order to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, many member countries will need to increase their emissions-reduction pledges, known as Intended Nationally Determined (NDCs), over the next decade.

However, their failure to put a time limit on the use of coal, the single largest contributor to climate change, and to persuade all countries to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 (rather than 2060, as China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia have pledged), demonstrates that countries that use and produce fossil fuels continue to wield significant influence in global climate agreements.
China’s long-awaited new emissions commitment, which was filed last week, was only a smidgeon higher than the previous one. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared on Sunday that the country would not be forced to reach net zero by 2050. Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, has shown little interest in putting coal out of business. India has not made a net-zero commitment, and, according to European politician Bas Eickhout, it is one of just a few countries that oppose setting a deadline on the phase-out of coal.

According to Michael Mann, a senior scientist at Pennsylvania State University, it is encouraging that leaders have recognised the need to reduce emissions this decade, but what matters most is that all major polluters have plans that are compatible with keeping temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“As well as a shrinking of the ‘implementation gap,’ or the difference between what heads of state have officially committed to and what they’re actually doing,” Mann added.
Mann emphasized that COP26 should not be used as a platform for delaying tactics, and expressed optimism that countries would agree to phase out coal at the meetings, even if the G20 leaders failed to do so.
“The International Energy Agency, which is known for its conservatism, has stated that no new fossil fuel infrastructure can be built if severe warming is to be avoided. “Earlier this summer, the G7 nations promised to phase out coal and halt backing for new coal projects,” Mann added.

“We need equivalent promises from the G20 countries, including a more aggressive coal phase-out date.”

By the end of this year, the G20 declaration promised to put an end to coal financing abroad. In September, Chinese President Xi Jinping proclaimed a halt to Chinese financing of foreign coal projects at the United Nations General Assembly, thereby removing the world’s largest coal financier from the equation.
The agreement and present emissions promises, according to Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, are not aggressive enough to avert the most severe levels of warming, and many countries are unlikely to achieve their own net-zero goals.

“To keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, governments must propose 2030 climate targets that provide a feasible path to achieving these net-zero commitments,” she said in a statement.
“A number of G20 countries, including Australia, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Turkey, are currently not on a credible path to achieve their net-zero goals.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Sunday that he was departing Rome “with my dreams unmet — but at least they are not buried.” He was optimistic that Glasgow would be able to “keep the 1.5 degree aim alive.”

His words encapsulate many people’s feelings during COP26. If the G20 fails to set a deadline for coal and make a concrete commitment to net-zero energy, it appears that getting the entire globe on board with those critical problems will be impossible.

There’s also the matter of trust. More than a decade ago, the developed world vowed to transfer $100 billion per year to the Global South to assist it in transitioning to low-carbon economy and adapting to the new world of the climate crisis.
That goal was not met last year, and according to a study released last week by the COP26 presidency, it won’t be realized until 2023 if present pledges are kept.
Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who now heads the Climate Vulnerability Forum, bemoaned the G20 statement’s lack of action, notably on the inability to phase out coal. The Maldives is a frontline nation in the climate catastrophe, and by the end of the century, it may be drowned by rising sea levels.
In a statement, Nasheed remarked, “This is a welcome start.” “However, it will not prevent the temperature from warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, wreaking havoc on significant regions of the planet, including the Maldives.” As a result, this simply isn’t quite enough.”
Net zero, coal phaseout, and climate financing delivery will all remain top priorities for negotiators. Another area that could succeed is a global agreement on eliminating and reversing deforestation by 2030, as well as global movement to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.
Tom Burke, co-founder of climate think tank E3G, was more upbeat, claiming that the G20 statement demonstrated a shift in leadership thinking on the urgency of the climate situation.
“This adjustment in focus from 2050 to 2030 is a huge win.” “It gets us off to a better start than we expected,” says the coach. As leaders gather to begin the COP, the political accord reached at the G20 will provide political momentum.”

You may also like

Leave a Comment