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COP26 has 'mountain to climb' to curb warming as talks intensify

Economic IndicatorsNov 09, 2021 03:37PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Women carry sacks on their heads as they walk through water, after heavy rains and floods forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, in the town of Pibor, Boma state, South Sudan, November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu

By Kate Abnett and William James

GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) -The president of the U.N. climate talks https://www.reuters.com/business/cop said on Tuesday there was still a mountain to climb towards a goal of capping the global temperature rise at 1.5 Celsius, as a research group said existing pledges would allow the Earth to warm far beyond that.

Britain's Alok Sharma told reporters that COP26 officials would soon publish the first draft of the so-called cover decision, which summarises the commitments of more than 190 countries, in a bid to focus minds in the three days remaining.

Climate activists and experts will pore over the document looking for items such as timelines to phase out public subsidies of fossil fuels, or provide long-promised funds to help poor countries tackle climate change.

These and a raft of other complex issues to be hammered out will determine whether the two-week Glasgow summit can succeed in keeping within reach the 1.5C ceiling considered vital to avoid catastrophic climate consequences.

"We are making progress at COP26 but we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days," said Sharma.

The European Union's climate policy chief, Frans Timmermans, delivered a similarly blunt message, telling reporters, "the honest truth is we're not where we want to be, not even close."

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) research group put a sobering number on the size of the task at hand, saying that all the national pledges submitted so far to cut greenhouse gases by 2030 would allow the Earth's temperature to rise 2.4C from pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Scientists say 1.5C - the aspirational goal set down in the 2015 Paris Agreement - is the most the Earth can afford to avoid an acceleration of the intense heat waves, droughts, storms, floods and crop failures it is already experiencing.

RISING SEAS

Underscoring the stakes for vulnerable nations, the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu said it was looking at legal ways to keep ownership of its maritime zones and recognition as a state even if it is engulfed by rising seas.

"We're actually imagining a worst-case scenario where we are forced to relocate or our lands are submerged," its foreign minister, Simon Kofe, told Reuters.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who opened the COP26 eight days ago and attended the first two days, will return to the conference on Wednesday, his spokesperson said.

To meet the 1.5C goal, the United Nations wants to achieve "net zero" - where no more greenhouse gases are emitted than can simultaneously be absorbed - by 2050.

And it says that will be impossible unless emissions - mostly of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas - are cut 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.

"Even with all new Glasgow pledges for 2030, we will emit roughly twice as much in 2030 as required for 1.5°C," CAT said.

China, the world's largest emitter, says it will achieve net zero only in 2060, the same year as major oil and gas producer Russia. India, another large-scale polluter, has a target date ten years later.

Moreover, CAT explicitly warned against assuming that longer-term "net zero" pledges would even be met, since most countries have not yet implemented the short-term policies or legislation needed.

"It's all very well for leaders to claim they have a net zero target, but if they have no plans as to how to get there, and their 2030 targets are as low as so many of them are, then frankly, these 'net zero' targets are just lip service to real climate action," said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, one of the organisations behind the CAT.

Sharma acknowledged as much, saying: "The world needs confidence that we will shift immediately into implementation, that the pledges made here will be delivered, and that the policies and investment will swiftly follow."

WEAK DEAL OR NO DEAL?

A key pillar of climate action is carbon pricing and trading - mechanisms that force polluters to pay a market price for their emissions, or pay others to offset them, by planting trees that bind carbon or investing in cleaner power.

COP26 is supposed to create a global framework for carbon pricing, but the problem has defeated the last two climate summits, and is in danger of proving insurmountable in Glasgow too.

"There's a higher chance of getting a deal this time, but it could be very weak," said Gilles Dufrasne, a policy officer with Carbon Market Watch. "Having no deal might hence be an acceptable outcome."

Many campaigners including Greenpeace oppose the use of carbon offsets under any circumstances, saying they lessen the incentives for polluters to change their habits, and risk paying for changes elsewhere that would have happened anyway.

"Net zero does not mean zero," warned Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator for ActionAid International. "In the majority of cases, these corporations ... are planning to carry on business as usual https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/more-net-than-zero-do-carbon-cutting-promises-add-up-climate-2021-11-09" for long periods, she added.

But some say things could be worse, noting how U.S. President Joe Biden had promptly returned the world's second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter to the Paris Agreement, from which his predecessor Donald Trump had withdrawn, and pushed a $555 billion climate package through Congress.

Democratic U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez underlined the more constructive U.S. approach at the Glasgow conference on Tuesday.

"We're just here to say that we're not just back. We're different and we're more just. And we are more open-minded to questioning prior assumptions of what is politically possible," she said.

COP26 has 'mountain to climb' to curb warming as talks intensify
 

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Comments (7)
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Nov 09, 2021 3:24PM ET
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I forget, are we in Ireland or Scotland?
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Nov 09, 2021 3:15PM ET
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I will know libs are serious when they put real pressure on China and Russia. Until then its just a power grab.
no spin
no spin Nov 09, 2021 2:33PM ET
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Next Month polar vortex.
Red Riley
Red Riley Nov 08, 2021 11:51PM ET
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climate change. well move. in this day and age there is no excuse. come on now.
divad mocihc
9divaD Nov 08, 2021 10:36PM ET
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They should focus on payment from ChiComs … world’s #1 polluter AND sponsors of COVID 19 pandemic
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Nov 08, 2021 10:36PM ET
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China probably caused the covid-19 pandemic through carelessness or accident not sponsorship.
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Nov 08, 2021 9:42PM ET
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According to Al Gore NY was going to be under water by year 2000. NY is underwater but is due to Democrats...
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Nov 08, 2021 9:42PM ET
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another incoherent statement from flipe Daniel.,.
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Nov 08, 2021 9:42PM ET
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Ac Tektrader What partl of English don’t you understand?
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Nov 08, 2021 9:25PM ET
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Now entire countries are playing the victim card for handouts, based on climate change that could just as well have been a natural occurrence, like the dust bowl years during the great depression.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Nov 08, 2021 9:25PM ET
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the dust bowl of the 1930s was caused by changes in the environment and soil mismanagement caused by human ignorance.
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Nov 08, 2021 9:25PM ET
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Ac Tektrader oh, you mean “weather”
 
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