Time is running out to reach the promise of the net zero targets agreed upon in the COP26 Paris Agreement last year. The actions to reduce carbon emissions are still far from where they need to be, and support for countries affected by climate change is falling short.
However, COP26 did establish the building blocks for future actions to put the world on a sustainable and low-carbon path. COP27 has begun, what can the government, agencies, and businesses do to fight climate change?
The Role of COP in Climate Change
The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) includes 197 countries and territories that signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Their role is to monitor and review the implementation of decarbonization goals. In 2015, 193 countries pledged in the Paris Agreement to limit the increase in global temperature to below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, as compared to pre-industrial levels by 2050. To execute these goals, each party must achieve targets for cutting emissions called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
The Outcome of COP26
The COP26 took place in Glasgow from 31st October to 13th November 2021. It brought the EU and individual countries to an agreement by consensus, and the outcome was the Glasgow Climate Pact between 200 countries. The Pact aims to keep the goal of 1.5°C alive, accelerate emission reduction actions, and reaffirm the Paris Agreement’s fundamental principles. Countries also stressed the need to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2050. The Pact called to present a more decisive action plan in 2022 instead of by 2025 and phase down the use of coal power. One hundred ninety-six countries signed to phase down coal, resulting in a 76% decrease in planned new coal power plants. Moreover, above 40 countries, organizations, and states supported the transition from coal to clean power.
However, as a direct consequence of the Russian invasion on Ukraine, the energy crisis is forcing countries to rethink their strategies of transitioning to cleaner power. They are using any readily available resources, be it clean energy or fossil fuels. Due to the sanctions and other issues related to the invasion, soon, there won’t be enough gas available. Therefore, many European countries are switching back to coal power plants.
One of the most significant achievements of COP26, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, was the establishment of rules to govern the use of carbon markets. The aim was to help countries meet their target of NDCs. Another outcome of COP26 was finalizing the Paris Rule Book, which included agreements on how countries would set their NDC targets. Other types of commitments were made to halt deforestation by 2030. In addition, companies, cities, and agencies signed agreements to accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles by 2035 in leading markets. Twenty-two countries also signed a deal to decarbonize shared shipping routes.
What is Left Unresolved by COP26?
There are many things that countries could not achieve post COP26. According to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the updated pledges to cut emissions by the end of this decade are projected to reduce emissions by only 1%.
With the current policies, the pledges can only reduce 0.5 gigatonnes of carbon from the environment. This falls short of the 45% reduction needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C and 30% for 2°C.
While the focus of COP26 was to phase out using fossil fuels, the emissions from the building sector remain unaddressed. The pledge to deliver $100 billion in climate financing to developing countries remains unfulfilled.
Other key challenges that remain unresolved by COP26 include the public and private financial commitments in getting money to the right place. Also, the promises by the government and agencies need more accountability.
Will COP27 be Able to Achieve What COP26 Couldn’t?
With COP27 just around the corner, expectations are weighed down by the post-Covid economic recession, global energy crisis, and the Ukraine invasion. There are many critical challenges that COP27 has to overcome, such as prioritizing the urgency to reduce climate-induced damage and loss.
The key focuses of COP27 should be to bring transparency to carbon crediting activities and regulate the registration of NDCs. There is also a need to prevent double counting, whereby two countries claim the exact target of carbon reduction.
Some are optimistic that COP27 will help the transition to clean energy. But others believe it will fall short of trying to keep global warming below 1.5°C in the necessary period.
The Journey Towards Decarbonisation: Who Can Participate and How?
The journey toward decarbonization is rife with challenges. However, despite these challenges, governments, agencies, and businesses are starting to take climate-friendly actions to accelerate emissions reduction.
The public and private sectors can procure sustainable products, increase renewable energy installation capacity, take action for water management, and minimize waste production.
They should also help preserve forests habitats, protect livelihoods, and provide climate finance for developing countries. Another way to reach the net zero target is to trade carbon credits.
According to the International Emissions Trading Association, countries can save up to $250 billion by 2030 in delivering their NDCs if they trade in carbon credits.
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