COP 26th Conference to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Limiting climate change
At the end of October, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Kyoto Convention to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) will take place in Glasgow, UK. The Parties will review the agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 (at COP 21) to restrict the average global temperature rise to 2 C and no more than 1.5 C if possible.
In August this year the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its 6th Assessment Report which concluded that the average global temperature had risen by 1.2 C already and that this average temperature rise should not exceed 1.5 C rise if irreversible changes in climate are to be avoided. Moreover to stay within the 1.5 C limit, global GHG emissions would have to reduce by 50% in the next 10 years.
However the current national declared contributions (NDC) suggest that this reduction will NOT be achieved.
3 possible scenarios
Business as usual Not all countries agree at COP 26 to increase their national declared contributions. Under this scenario, the climate will continue to change resulting in –
- risks to the natural world in terms of continuing loss of habitats and ecosystems, species and biodiversity
- increasing extremes in weather and their occurrence such as tropical storms and droughts
- more people going hungry due to loss of food production
As already 10% of the world’s population go without one or more meals a day, this number should not increase but decrease if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved by 2030
Good intentions Countries agree in Glasgow to increase their national declared contributions but do not implement them. This is climate activist Greta Thunberg’s greatest concern. At the International Youth Climate Summit in Milan this week she said
“ All we hear from leaders are words that sound great but so far have not led to actions. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises. There is still time to achieve our goal but it will take immediate, drastic and annual emission reductions. But if words are not met with actions then our leaders will betray not only present, but also future generations”.
Saving the climate In this scenario, words are followed by actions. The principal argument for such actions has been described in 2009 by Nicholas Stern in his book Blueprint for a safer planet. The analysis by his economic team shows that a changing climate poses great dangers to food supplies, biosphere and employment. Therefore it is more economic to invest NOW in actions which will limit climate change rather than wait until these changes occur and then try to adapt to them. For the UK he has costed such actions as requiring an annual investment of 1% gross domestic product (GDP) some £50 billion until 2050. Moreover such an investment would create sustainable employment and result in reducing poverty and limit extremes in weather.
Will agreement be reached at COP 26?
Limiting climate change can only be achieved if all countries take actions to limit GHG emissions. The greatest concern is whether politicians can agree at COP 26 that the time for taking actions is now and if not now, when?.
Making it happen
Each of us is responsible for our carbon emissions. So rather than wait for political actions, we should also consider what we can and should do to limit our GHG emissions.