Credit: UNFCCC

EDITORIAL: The world needs climate conscience here and now as time is running out

Following the latest projections on Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction targets pledged, there is no more room and no more time for word juggling among the climate delegates. What is really needed here and now is climate conscience

COP26, which is supposed to conclude last night, has been extended for another day as the parties of this UN Climate Change Conference cannot reach a conclusion over the final decision text. Among the sticking points are the phase-out of the use of coal and fossil fuels and subsidies, the prime sources of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), sufficient climate finance ($100 billion a year) to support the transition and adaptation, and so on.

Last but not least is the reduction targets of GHG emissions, which they have still missed to accomplish.

According to the UNFCCC’s latest update on the collective targets pledged by the countries under the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the 2015 Paris Agreement, as of November 2, there were 124 new or updated NDCs communicated by 151 Parties in total.

Their cuts on GHG emissions as proposed in their NDCs, however, cannot help cut the GHG emissions by 2030 as expected. On a contrary, the total GHG emissions under their collective pledges could reach 40.4 GtCO2e, or nearly 6% increase compared to 2010.

Worse, the total emissions of 193 parties to the Paris Agreement could be around 53.8 Gt CO2e, or a 13.7% increase compared to 2010.

The delegates in the tense negotiations at COP26 on the scheduled final day of Nov 12. Credit: UNFCCC

As estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C, a reduction of CO2 emissions by 45% in 2030 is required, or a 25% reduction to keep the warming below 2C.

When taking into account the long-term pledges for up to and beyond the mid-century or 2050 by the parties of the agreement, it further found that the total emissions by 2030 by some 74 parties that have already pledged their long-term targets would stand at 29.7 GtCO2e, or only -5.2% compared to 2010.

At present, the world on average releases around 40 GtCO2e annually. It’s estimated that since 1850, nearly 2,400 GtCO2e of Greenhouse Gases have been released into the atmosphere already, and the global temperature is reported to stand at around 1.1C.

To keep the global temperature below 2C or limit it to 1.5C by the end of this century, the UNEP said in its latest Emissions Gap Report 2021 that the world has around these eight years to take an additional 28 GtCO2e off annual emissions. For the 2C target, a drop in annual emissions of 13 GtCO2e by 2030 is needed.

What do these all mean?

“If emissions are not reduced by 2030, they will need to be substantially reduced thereafter to compensate for the slow start on the path to net-zero emissions, but likely at a higher cost,” the UNFCCC noted.

Worse than a higher cost the UNFCCC noted could be the irreversible climate impacts in a number of places and locations_if the world fails to keep GHG emissions down to the level that is needed to help limit the warming _at 1.5C.

In fact, the carbon budget left is only around 400 GtCO2e so as for the temperature to not rise to 1.5C, but this could be finished within the next ten years, given the current use at 40GtCO2 a year.

Ten or thirty years from now_at COP26_ are therefore critically important, and delegates at COP26 cannot be complacent and take the timeframes for granted.

Time is really running out. There is no more room and no more time for word juggling. Beyond the prime cliché and jargon of climate action that world leaders and delegates have been playing with, what we really need here and now is climate conscience.