Is progress being made globally on climate change?
Friday, October 15th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
Commitments to halt greenhouse gas emissions are currently nowhere near stopping the worst ravages of climate change in the years to come, a new report indicated on Wednesday, as world leaders prepare to haggle over what action to take and who will pay for it.
Even if countries meet their commitments – still a very big if – this will only reduce fossil fuel emissions by 40 per cent by 2050, said the International Energy Agency.
That means a temperature rise of about 2.7°C (4.8F) by 2100 – a figure the United Nations recently said would be “catastrophic” for the planet and all its inhabitants.
Will Steffen, a climate expert at the Australian National University, said the IEA report makes it clear that the current goal of “net zero emissions” by 2050 – as many countries are committing to – is simply too little, too late.
In the 2015 Paris climate agreement, nations set a target of staying below 2°C (3.6F), and preferably below 1.5°C (2.7F), above pre-industrial levels.
If not, the consensus is that extreme weather, including droughts and flooding, will become even more common, sea levels will rise, Arctic ice will diminish, and many plants and animals will be unable to survive.
Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil made up nearly 80 percent of the world’s energy supply in 2020 and renewables just 12 per cent, the IEA noted.
“A low emissions revolution is long overdue,” the report said.
It called for a massive expansion of clean energy generation, naming wind and solar power specifically.
The IEA warned that renewables – such as solar, wind, hydropower, and bioenergy – need to form a far bigger share in energy investment, which needs to triple by the end of the decade if the world hopes to effectively fight climate change.
Renewables will account for more than two-thirds of investment in new power capacity this year, the IEA noted, yet a sizeable gain in coal and oil use has caused the second-largest annual increase in climate change-causing carbon emissions.
The report comes shortly before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12.
It called the Glasgow meeting “an opportunity to provide an ‘unmistakable signal’ that accelerates the transition to clean energy worldwide”.
Major emitters including China, India, and Saudi Arabia – which produce about one-third of global emissions – have yet to strengthen their emission-cutting targets, despite growing pressure to do so before the UN’s COP26 climate summit.
But developed nations – which are responsible for pumping most of the emissions into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution – must pay up and assist developing countries with tens of billions of dollars a year to help adapt to climate disasters and transform fossil fuel-driven economies.
“Developed countries should rapidly step up their climate finance,” said Claire Fyson, a climate policy expert at Climate Analytics, a Berlin-headquartered non-profit. - Agencies