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As the sun rose in Glasgow, more than 20,000 people – delegates from individual nations, representatives of non-governmental organizations and activists – gathered in Scotland for the start of the United Nations climate conference. two weeks. Known as the Conference of the Parties or COP 26, it takes place from Monday November 1 to Friday November 12, 2021.

COP 26 will mainly focus on two things: (1) commitments on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; and (2) financing and technology transfers from developed countries to developing countries, to help them cope with and adapt to climate change.

This year’s climate negotiations are important because, under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries must submit information to the UN detailing their plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although discussions on GHGs tend to focus on carbon dioxide (CO2), GHG emissions also include methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). The UN aggregates the commitments, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and assesses the cumulative impact.

The Paris Agreement, which was adopted at COP 21 in Paris in 2015 and entered into force in 2016, stipulated that NDCs were to be reported every five years, with the intention of increasing commitments over time. time. The submission deadline was 2020, and 194 of 197 parties submitted their first NDCs.

The Paris Agreement also established a target to take action to limit the increase in average global temperature to well below 2.0 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), considered by many countries, especially countries in sub-Saharan Africa and low-lying islands. , be the limit. “1.5 to stay alive,” as the island nations say.

Unfortunately, the nations at the top have made little progress on these issues leading up to COP 26. According to the UN, the commitments made so far will not reduce emissions but will actually allow them to increase by 16%. The current commitments would result in a temperature increase of 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

Historically, developed countries (in the UN parlance), such as EU countries and the United States, are the biggest emitters. The EU initially pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 based on 1990 levels. In December 2020, it updated its pledges for a more ambitious 55% reduction. by 2030, based on 1990 levels. EU supply is in line with reduction targets recommended by most scientific bodies.

Overall, current commitments would reduce CO emissions2 emissions by only 7% by 2030. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, for example, argues that GHGs must be reduced by 45% by 2030 based on 2010 levels, then reduced to net zero by 2050, in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and d ” avoid irreversible climate change.

The United States has said it will reduce its GHG emissions by 50 to 52% by 2030—based on 2005 levels. While most countries use 1990 as a benchmark, the United States uses 2005, which means their commitments are actually lower. The current 50 to 52 percent of the United States appears to be close to the 55 percent of the EU, but is actually 13 to 14 percent under the 2005 baseline scenario. Accounting tricks will not solve the climate crisis. (Many states in the United States, such as California, Massachusetts, and Washington, use 1990 as a benchmark for emissions.)

Germany, on the other hand, has increased its cuts from 55% to 65% by 2030 based on 1990 levels. Yet although the amount appears large, to achieve this, Germany would have to phase out coal. by 2030, as will the major producing countries of China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Australia and Russia. UN Secretary General António Guterres has called for “no new coal by 2021”. And the president of the COP 26, Alok Sharma, demanded that the meeting of the UNO “entrust the coal to history”. The Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of 137 countries, regions, cities and organizations working to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired power plants, will do everything possible to ensure that COP 26 throws coal in the dustbin of history.

Developing countries, like China and India, have proposed cuts based on their economic growth. (Developing countries like China and India still remember historic inequalities in emissions production.) In 2020, China said it will aim to be net zero by 2060 and that its emissions would peak by 2035. Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend COP 26. In his stead, Chinese Climate Envoy Xie Zhenhua and Vice Minister Zhao Yingmin will lead the delegation and provide China’s commitment to the NDC.

In 2016, India proposed a reduction of 33 to 35 percent by 2030 based on 2005 levels and has yet to submit its 2020 NDC target. Indian Prime Minister Modi will attend COP 26.

Limiting methane emissions will also be discussed. Methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. In September, the US and the EU unveiled the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 based on 2020 levels. Already more than 35 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge.

Ambitions have been lowered somewhat in recent weeks by the US President’s special climate envoy John Kerry. Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will not be in attendance. That said, Biden and many other heads of state will be in attendance. COP 26 will be vital in putting pressure on world leaders to take action and reduce emissions.

AIn addition to emission reductions, finance is a key topic in the UN climate negotiations.

Developed countries have agreed to provide funding to developing countries to help them adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis, such as sea level rise and drought. One hundred billion dollars a year has been pledged to developing countries, a commitment that dates back to the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.

This amount is, however, much lower than the amounts claimed by negotiators from various groups of nations, such as the African Group, the Alliance of Small Island States, and the least developed countries and small island developing States, which have the least. contributed to and have already suffered the worst impacts of global warming. And since 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, developed countries have contributed less than $ 90 billion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2018, the OECD, together with the UN and the World Bank released a report indicating that $ 6.9 trillion would be needed annually until 2020 to ensure the resilience of developing countries.

As key climate negotiators and NGOs discuss these issues in the negotiating rooms, activists will take to the streets throughout the week to advocate for climate justice. A wave of protests will take place during COP 26, possibly the largest in Scotland since those against the Iraq war in 2003. Yesterday, Extinction Rebellion’s Deep Water Rising actions highlighted how the burning of fossil fuels results in a sea ​​level rise. Friday, a march organized by young people, Fridays for Future, will take place. On Saturday, a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice will follow, with marches planned in Glasgow, London and around the world. And on Sunday, the People’s Summit for Climate Justice will launch a series of in-person and online workshops and events. This week, 350.org is also organizing a Global Week of Action. These actions in Glasgow and around the world will inspire COP 26 negotiators to set high ambitions and take action. Time is running out, because it is the decade to reduce emissions.


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.