Last week on Friday ended the climate conference in the UK. Here are the results summarized, as well as a steady reminder on the effect each tonne of Co2 has on the planet’s climate. We close the entry by talking about the future of cooperation and aid.
Summary of COP26
Nearly 200 countries participated in the negotiations, along with them came many of the world’s top CEOs, mayors, and leaders in industries (from finance to agriculture to infrastructure). And, present outside of the summit, climate activists took on the street with one among them being Greta Thunberg.
Now to the summary:
Goal of 1.5 C°
– The commitment to contain global warming at 1.5 °C has been reaffirmed (decreasing emissions by 45% until 2030 compared to 2010)
– Financial firms with $130 Trillion in assets have pledged to adjust their business in order to meet the net-zero goal
– A framework was put in place for a global trading system which may lead to a worldwide price on carbon one day
– By 2030, deforestation is to be halted and reversed (pledged by 100 global leaders)
– Investors and companies said they plan to boost forest protection efforts as well
– And end to „inefficient fossil fuel subsidies“ was announced, however, what inefficient exactly means wasn’t specified
– Due to pressure by India and China (as well as other coal-dependent nations) the phasing-out of coal was changed to phase-down
– The US and China have planned to cooperate on climate action (e.g. decreasing the greenhouse gas methane)
– 22 countries pledged to halt all public financing of fossil fuel projects overseas
– 23 nations promised to phase-out coal
– Insufficient climate protection plans for 2030 are to be toughened til the end of 2022
– Financial aid for poor countries is to be doubled by 2025 (€35 billion)
– From 2021 onwards, all countries have to report to the UN on their emissions balance every two years
– Encouragement to make 5-year climate plans
– Other initiatives include the protection of forests, reduction of methane greenhouse gases and emission-free road traffic
Tagesschau (a German public broadcaster, founded in 1952):
What The Science Says
The 6th IPCC report on the subject of Co2-emissions:
„This Report reaffirms with high confidence the AR5 finding that there is a near-linear relationship between cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the global warming they cause. Each 1000 GtCO2 of cumulative CO2 emissions is assessed to likely cause a 0.27°C to 0.63°C increase in global surface temperature with a best estimate of 0.45°C. This is a narrower range compared to AR5 and SR1.5. This quantity is referred to as the transient climate response to cumulative CO2 emissions (TCRE). This relationship implies that reaching net zero anthropogenic CO2 emissions is a requirement to stabilize human-induced global temperature increase at any level, but that limiting global temperature increase to a specific level would imply limiting cumulative CO2 emissions to within a carbon budget.“
With that in mind, it should be now even more clear why a phasing-out of fossil fuels is a necessity in the fight against climate change. The later it is done, the more emissions are added which in turn leads to a worst scenario and ultimately to worse conditions around the world (e.g. severe droughts, heatwaves with greater intensity, ocean acidification).
Severe Droughts lead more easily to crop failure, in poor countries that means an increased risk of hunger or even famine. Dry regions will experience such events more often. As it is explained by LiveScience, there are four types of droughts (meteorological, hydrological, agricultural and socioeconomic). Such events are very costly too: „According to NOAA, droughts cost the United States around $9 billion a year. As the human population increases in arid regions as well as wet ones, so will the demand for water, and — with water supplies dropping at a faster rate — so will the likelihood of drought.“
Heatwaves pose a danger as well: „[W]hen the weather gets hot, the vulnerable are at risk. They include infants, people who are elderly, homeless or poor, and people who have a chronic or mental illness. Factors that increase the risk of hyperthermia during heat waves include social isolation, alcohol consumption, prolonged physical exertion, use of certain drugs (neuroleptics, antipsychotics, tranquilizers, anticholinergics) and lack of air conditioning.“ (NCBI)
Ocean Acidification happens when seawater absorbs Co2. A series of chemical reactions results in increased concetration of hydron ions. Consequently, a higher acidity causes carbonate ions to be less abundant. For the ecosystem it means the following:
„Carbonate ions are an important building block of structures such as sea shells and coral skeletons. Decreases in carbonate ions can make building and maintaining shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying organisms such as oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton.
These changes in ocean chemistry can affect the behavior of non-calcifying organisms as well. Certain fish’s ability to detect predators is decreased in more acidic waters. When these organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk.“ (NOAA)
Both droughts and ocean acidification threaten the food supply, the latter will be experienced more intensively by communities around the globe that live near the coast and rely on their local fishing industry. Poorer nations, which already struggle, are going to suffereven more if the intensity and frequency of droughts increases. This, in turn, leads to more refugee movements and possibly famines.
Aid & Self-Reliance
Lastly, we shall end this entry with a focus on the poorer nations.
As mentioned in the summary, the aid to poor countries is to be doubled by 2025 (€35 billion). However, financial aid alone won’t solve the problems. In order for these nations to finally stand up and participate more actively on the world stage, they have to build up their own industry. Through technology transfer (knowledge/expertise and technical abilities) and cooperation, it can be guaranteed that they not only move to a green economy but also require less financial aid over the time. Their dependency decreases while their self-reliance increases, and the only thing wealthier nations have to do is to provide the means to do it. Once on equal footing, cooperation and progress can continue.
Native flora and fauna – whether it is a European country or a country in Africa – need to be taken into account for when implementing reforestation plans, for instance. A focus on what captures the most carbon is misguided and exposes native wildlife to potentially invasive species which would endanger the local ecosystem. Here, it is once again important to let the natives decide and take charge, while still cooperating.
Multinational companies must also be held responsible for their actions and inactions. In an economic sense with profit (what is gained in a country remains there and is taxed, eliminating child labour, etc.), environmental sense (e.g. implementing regulations) and societal sense (accountability, transparency, etc.).
Motto: Equality of nations, a world made for generations.