Opinion: Tomorrow, 125 world leaders and 25,000 members of the public – activists, climate scientists, mayors, business leaders, indigenous youth and leaders, technology leaders and journalists – will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for the world’s largest face-to-face. diplomatic face event since the start of the global pandemic.
COP26 is the 26th summit of states that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, and more recently the Paris Agreement in 2015.
This agreement aimed to keep the global climate below 2 degrees Celsius of heating and preferably only 1.5 ° C above 1850-1880 levels, and to advance sustainable development and eradicate poverty.
The overall objective of COP26 is to advance the Paris climate agreement.
This is the first of five-year opportunities for governments around the world to increase their voluntary commitments to reduce heat-trap emissions.
However, expectations are low for a major breakthrough on emissions reduction in Glasgow. The United Nations Environment Program recently calculated that governments are simply not doing enough, we need to save an additional 13 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions if we are to keep temperatures below 2 ° C and 28 billion tonnes to keep temperatures around 1.5 ° C.
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To put this in perspective, China’s current emissions are estimated at 13 billion tonnes per year. As Professor Jim Skea, co-chair of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says, limiting warming to 1.5 ° C is possible “within the framework of the laws of chemistry and physical, but that would require unprecedented changes ”.
Despite the challenges of international politics and the Covid-19 pandemic, we must not dampen our enthusiasm for the combined global efforts to protect our planet. It is only through multilateral or national efforts that we will achieve just and profound change.
Britain and Italy are co-hosting the conference and have set four goals for the next two weeks in Glasgow. The first is to ‘secure global net zero emissions’ by the middle of the century to keep 1.5 degrees within reach ”. They aim to encourage all countries, including New Zealand, to update their voluntary commitments and practical actions to reduce emissions.
The second goal is to focus on adaptation. There is currently a very vague goal of protecting people and ecosystems, but the UK and Italy argue that making adaptation a reality requires commitments to build defenses and early warning systems to avoid harm. loss of homes, livelihoods, agriculture and lives. However, research tells us that levees and sirens will not be enough to protect vulnerable people, we also need to plan for new forms of economic and social support, education and health services to meet the needs of populations facing crisis. increasingly dangerous climate change.
The third major goal responds in a way to this need for broader support, it aims to obtain 100 billion dollars per year in donations from rich countries to help developing countries prepare for climate disasters and develop technologies. cleaner.
The end goal is perhaps the most difficult – it is to maintain the global collaboration on climate. This includes reaching agreement on detailed guidelines and processes to achieve reduction targets in a fair and transparent manner, in a manner that respects biodiversity and human rights.
Aside from those big goals, there are smaller progress markers to watch out for as well.
The UK is leading diplomatic efforts to try to secure an agreement to end investments in offshore coal production and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, and to secure “climate-friendly” trade deals, which are as many initiatives as New Zealand could support.
An EU-US-led proposal to reduce global methane emissions by 2030 will be more difficult at the national level.
Small Pacific states have also gone to great lengths not only for more effective emission reductions, but also to draw more attention to the impact of loss and damage already caused by climate change and to protect the oceans, which absorb about 23% of global emissions and more than 90% of excess heat.
New Zealand has a chance to play a key role in helping to amplify the voices of the Pacific and indigenous communities in the COP negotiations. New Zealand’s commitment of $ 1.3 billion in aid over three years will help global efforts to reach $ 100 billion in annual support to developing countries.
But our next big step is to commit to reducing our own emissions in line with the Paris targets and developing a plan to protect people and businesses in an increasingly chaotic climate future.
Professor Bronwyn Hayward is a political scientist at the University of Canterbury, a climate change researcher and author of the IPCC.