WHY GLASGOW COP26 MATTERS

by Marina Orhei

MONACO. There are hopes of a strong outcome at COP26 that will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November where up to 25,000 people are expected. Tens of thousands of campaigners and businesses will also be there to hold events, network – and hold protests. Extinction Rebellion, for example, are calling for an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels. At the end of the conference, some form of declaration is expected. Every country will be required to sign up and it could include specific commitments. Leaders and delegates from around the world will attend the summit, including Mr Kerry and US President Joe Biden. Mr Kerry told the BBC that key countries were pursuing policies that border on being “very dangerous”. He said that if greenhouse gas emissions were not reduced enough over the next nine years there was no chance of meeting long-term targets. The aim is to hold the rise in the earth’s temperature to 1.5C. Scientists have said that would require global carbon emissions to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by the end of this decade. But apart from a brief period during Covid-19 lockdowns, emissions are still rising. China and US, the world’s biggest emitters, will be key to any change.  There are hopes that China may revise its climate plans ahead of the Glasgow conference. It is now the world’s biggest polluter and has investments in coal stations all over the world. It has previously said it aims to peak its emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Many observers will be watching how quickly China – and other major fossil fuel producers – will be willing to reduce their reliance on them. US would move forward with “humility and ambition” in the global negotiations. A former presidential candidate, Mr Kerry has long been a powerful voice in climate politics. As President Obama’s Secretary of State he played a key role in securing the Paris agreement in 2015. (Please see our post on COP22 held in Morocco in 2018  http://www.montecarlotimes.eu/wp-admin/post.php?post=1594&action=edit) Kerry listed some of the ways in which global warming could already be seen. He said that there were more fires, floods and damaging storms around the world, and sea levels were rising. “The evidence is mounting in ways that people in public life should not dare to avoid accepting as a mandate for action,” Kerry said.  “The truth is emissions are going up around the world, not down in enough countries, and key countries are pursuing policies that border on being very dangerous for everybody.”  Mr Kerry has previously called on China to increase the speed and depth of its efforts to cut carbon. China has promised to peak emissions by 2030 – but the US diplomat said that was not good enough. “If you don’t reduce enough between 2020 and 2030 the scientists tell us we can’t get where we need to go. We will not be able to hold the earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and we won’t be able to achieve net zero by 2050.” Mr Kerry said he wanted Glasgow to raise the ambition of the 20 major economies in the world. He said he would be looking for definite road-maps to net zero and money to help less developed countries also reach their goals without suffering economic hardship. Mr Kerry called this the “greatest test of global citizenship” he could think of. “Glasgow is coming at a point where these scientists have told us we have about nine years remaining within which to make the most critical decisions. Those decisions have got to really start in earnest and in a significant sum in Glasgow. We have to get on the road here and we’ve been talking about it for 30 years. So this is really what Glasgow is about, the last best hope to do what the scientists tell us we must which is to avoid the worst consequences of climate by making decisions now and implementing them now.”

Despite all the promises to take action, the world is still on course to heat up to dangerous levels. That’s the latest blunt assessment of the United Nations. Its experts have studied the climate plans of more than 100 countries and concluded that we’re heading in the wrong direction. Scientists recently confirmed that to avoid the worst impacts of hotter conditions, global carbon emissions needed to be cut by 45% by 2030. But this new analysis shows that those emissions are set to rise by 16% during this period. That could eventually lead to a temperature rise of 2.7C (4.9F) above pre-industrial times – far above the limits set by the international community. The central aim of the giant event in Glasgow is to keep alive hopes of limiting the rise in global temperatures by persuading nations to cut their emissions. Under the rules of the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries are meant to update their carbon reduction plans every five years. But the UN says that of 191 countries taking part in the agreement, only 113 have so far come up with improved pledges. Alok Sharma, the British minister who will chair the COP26 conference, said nations that had ambitious climate plans were “already bending the curve of emissions downwards”. “But without action from all countries, especially the biggest economies, these efforts risk being in vain.” A study by Climate Action Tracker found that of the G20 group of leading industrial nations, only a handful including the UK and the US have strengthened their targets to cut emissions. In another analysis, the World Resources Institute and Climate Analytics highlight how China, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – together responsible for 33% of greenhouse gases – have yet to submit updated plans. It says that Australia and Indonesia have the same carbon reduction targets they did back in 2015 – while the Paris Agreement is meant to involve a “ratchet mechanism” of progressively deeper cuts. And the study finds that Brazil, Mexico and Russia all expect their emissions to grow rather than to shrink. For the poorest countries – most vulnerable to rising sea levels and new extremes of heat and drought – seeing a rapid fall in the gases heating the planet is a priority.

What is COP26 and why is it happening?

The world is warming because of fossil fuel emissions caused by humans. Extreme weather events linked to climate change – including heatwaves, floods and forest fires – are intensifying and governments agree urgent collective action is needed. For this conference, 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions by 2030. They all agreed in 2015 to make changes to keep global warming “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels – and to try aim for 1.5C – so that we avoid a climate catastrophe.  This is what’s known as the Paris Agreement, and it means countries have to keep making bigger emissions cuts until reaching net zero in 2050. Most countries will set out their plans to reduce emissions before the summit starts – so, we should get a sense of whether we are on track beforehand.

Some announcements could include: Making a faster switch to electric cars – Speeding up the phasing out of coal power – Cutting down fewer trees – the way our homes are heated – protecting more people from the impacts of climate change, such as funding coastal-defence systems.

Sticking points could will include a lot of talk about money and climate justice. Developing countries tend to pollute less per head of population and are not responsible for most of emissions in the past. But they experience some of the worst effects of climate change. They need money to help reduce their emissions and to cope with climate change. It could mean more solar panels in countries that depend on energy from coal and flood defence systems. There will also be a battle over compensation for developing countries affected by climate change. Wealthy countries previously pledged $100bn (£720m) a year to help poorer nations by 2020, but that didn’t happen. So, richer countries will be expected to commit more money. Bar chart showing how much climate finance has been provided by developed countries in the last decade.  

On 3 March 2020 in Monaco Prince Albert II and John Kerry opened the “High Seas Treaty Dialogue”

As for Monaco, the tiny Principality Monaco will take part in efforts to stabilise the global warming of the planet by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in 2025 and 80% in 2050 (by which time the Principality will be carbon neutral) with respect to the reference date of 1990. In 2015, as part of the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Principality announced an interim target of reducing greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030 compared to 1990.

 

Organised since 2014 by the Yacht Club de Monaco, in collaboration with the International Powerboating Federation (UIM) and Prince Albert II Monaco Foundation, the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge is unique in the world, the 8th edition having taken place 6-10 July 2021. More than a century after the first international powerboat meetings were launched in 1904, the YCM is reviving a tradition by leaving the field wide open to innovation and the imaginations of young engineers, working hand in hand with experienced manufacturers. Their goal is to develop alternative propulsion systems, using only clean energy sources to power the yachting of tomorrow. A real technological challenge to meet the energy needs of the leisure boat and shipping industries and the accompanying and environmental prerogatives. Moreover, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation that works to protect the environment and promote the Oceans conservation is calling for inclusion of the ocean in climate negotiations.

 Finally, the meaning of COP26: COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Established by the UN, COP1 took place in 1995 – this will be the 26th.

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