COP26: the world launches a new offer to avoid climate catastrophe

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  • World looks to Glasgow for new pledges for climate action
  • UN chief Guterres calls “serious risk” of failure
  • Current action is not enough to avoid the future greenhouse world

GLASGOW, October 31 (Reuters) – World leaders will begin descending in the Scottish city of Glasgow on Sunday for the United Nations COP26 summit, touted as a decisive chance to save the planet from the most calamitous effects of climate change.

Delayed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, COP26 aims to keep alive a target of capping global warming at 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels – the limit according to scientists would avoid its consequences most destructive.

Achieving this goal, agreed to in Paris with great fanfare in 2015, will require political momentum and heavy diplomatic efforts to compensate for insufficient action and empty promises that have characterized much of global climate policy.

The conference must secure more ambitious commitments to further reduce emissions, lock in billions of dollars in climate finance and complete the rules to implement the Paris Agreement with the unanimous consent of the nearly 200 countries that have signed it .

“Let’s be clear – there is a serious risk that Glasgow will not bear fruit,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told rich country leaders in the Group of 20 (G20) last week.

“Even though recent pledges were clear and credible – and there are serious questions about some of them – we are still heading towards climate catastrophe.”

Current commitments by countries to reduce emissions would result in an increase in the average global temperature of 2.7 ° C this century, which the UN says would add to the destruction that climate change is already causing by intensifying storms, exposing more people to deadly heat and flooding, killing coral reefs and destroying natural habitats.

The signals ahead of COP26 are mixed. A new pledge last week from China, the world’s biggest polluter, was called a missed opportunity that will cast a shadow over the two-week summit. Announcements from Russia and Saudi Arabia were also lackluster.

The return of the United States, the world’s largest economy, to the UN climate talks will be a boon to the conference, after a four-year absence under President Donald Trump.

But like many world leaders, President Joe Biden will arrive at COP26 with no firm legislation in place to deliver on his own climate pledge as Congress wrangles over how to fund it and new uncertainty over whether US agencies can. even regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

G20 leaders meeting in Rome this weekend will say they aim to cap global warming at 1.5C, but will largely avoid firm commitments, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

The joint statement reflects difficult negotiations, but details few concrete actions to limit carbon emissions.

The G20, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for about 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but hopes that the Rome meeting could open the path to success in Scotland has faded considerably.

SHADOW OF COVID-19

Adding to the difficult geopolitical backdrop, a global energy crisis has prompted China to turn to heavily polluting coal to avoid power shortages, and left Europe on the hunt for more gas, another fossil fuel.

Ultimately, the negotiations will come down to questions of fairness and trust between rich countries whose greenhouse gas emissions have caused climate change, and poor countries being urged to decarbonize their economies with support. insufficient financial.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the divide between rich and poor. A lack of vaccines and travel restrictions mean that some representatives from poorer countries cannot attend the meeting.

Other hurdles – including exorbitant hotel rates in Glasgow – have fueled concerns about the under-representation of civil society groups in poorer countries, who are also most at risk from global warming.

COVID-19 will make this UN climate conference different from others, as 25,000 delegates from governments, business, civil society, indigenous peoples and the media will fill Glasgow’s vast Scottish campus.

All must wear masks, socially distance themselves and produce a negative COVID-19 test to enter each day – meaning late-breaking ‘caucuses’ of negotiators who made deals in past climate talks are out of the question .

Participants who test positive must be quarantined for 10 days, which could miss most of the conference.

World leaders will kick off COP26 on Monday with two days of speeches that could include new emission reduction commitments, before technical negotiators dwell on Paris Agreement rules. Any deal is likely to be made hours or even days after the event’s end date of November 12.

Outside, tens of thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets to demand urgent climate action.

Evaluating progress will be complex. Unlike previous climate summits, the event will not result in a new treaty or a big ‘victory’, but seeks smaller but vital victories on emission reduction commitments, climate finance and investments. Read more

Ultimately, success will be judged on whether these deals represent enough progress to keep the 1.5C target alive, which is still a long way off.

Since the Paris agreement in 2015, scientists have issued increasingly urgent warnings that the 1.5 ° C target is out of reach. To achieve this, global emissions must fall 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels, and reach net zero by 2050, requiring huge changes in transportation systems, energy production , manufacturing and agriculture countries. Current country commitments would see global emissions increase by 16% by 2030.

“The way I think about it is that there is a meteor coming to our planet and it has the very real potential to wipe out humanity,” said Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations diplomat. on the climate that drove the talks that culminated in the Paris Agreement.

Reporting by Kate Abnett, Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by Nina Chestney; edited by Mark John and Giles Elgood

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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