1.8 the New 1.5? COP26 Promises Could at Best Limit Global Warming to 1.8°C
An updates analysis of the targets set at COP26 show that global warming could be limited to just below 2°C by 2100.
"Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach."
That is the first of the four stated objectives on the website of COP26, the 26th of the yearly climate conferences in which countries party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet, discuss, and try to reach agreements on how to save the planet from a climate catastrophe.
World leaders like Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, and Justin Trudeau have insisted on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, but perhaps the most impassioned plea has come from the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, who said that "for those who have eyes to see, for those who have ears to listen, and for those who have a heart to feel: 1.5 is what we need to survive", CNN reported.
"2 degrees, yes [Secretary General] is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique — and yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados."
Before the conference even began, it was reported that its private actors and observers themselves believed that the current nationally determined contributions (NDCs) set by countries would fail to resolve the gap between the level of carbon emissions that would exist in the future, and the level where they need to be if global warming was to be limited to at least 1.5 °C or at most "well below" 2°C, The Guardian reported.
However, one week into COP26 that witnessed leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi make new, ambitious promises on how to tackle climate change, a recent report by the International Energy Agency said that an "updated analysis of these new targets" show that "on top of all of those [targets] made previously, if they [current targets] are met in full and on time, they would be enough to hold the rise in global temperatures to 1.8 °C by the end of the century."
The executive director of the IEA, Turkish economist and energy expert Fatih Birol, told the COP26 delegates that despite all the criticism surrounding the conference that accused countries of not promising enough, the new pledges are a “big step forward.”
He even tweeted the same.
The report goes on to note how "Prime Minister Narendra Modi [has] strengthened the country’s 2030 targets and pledged to hit net zero emissions by 2070" and how "several other large economies have also announced pledges to reach net zero emissions."
It also argues that the promises of more than 100 nations to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel projects will play an extremely impactful role in limiting climate change in the near future.
And while the IEA report warns that "1.8 °C is still above the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C", it at the same time welcomes the progress made by countries at COP26.
The new estimate is a huge sigh of relief, especially in the backdrop of the UN Emissions Gap report released before the conference on 26 October.
The UN report, after including the updated promises that members made ahead of COP26, predicted that the global temperature is likely to increase by 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century if countries fail to update their NDCs and fail to deliver reductions in emissions.
'The World Must Not Lose Sight of 1.5'
The IEA report however, had its critics and skeptics.
Nicholas Stern, a British climate expert and economist told Reuters that "all the estimates have their own uncertainties, but also it's the whole path that matters" and one "can't estimate a temperature just from a point."
He further went on to say that "the world must not lost sight of 1.5".
The predictions of the IEA report was also critiqued by the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Change, Selwin Hart.
He warned that the formalised climate objectives put forward by countries as part of their NDCs clearly depicted the world being “a long way” from averting a climate disaster.
"Fatih, I heard your numbers, but based on the NDCs that have been submitted, the world is on a 2.7C pathway, a catastrophic pathway, and therefore we are a long way away from keeping the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement alive. We cannot be complacent. We cannot celebrate before we’ve done the job. We must recognise that this is a fight that we cannot afford to lose", The Guardian reported.
The skepticism is understandable considering the sensitivity of the issue at hand.
After all, if the world fails to act now, there is no going back. That is just the nature of climate change.
Nevertheless, one can only hope that the new IEA forecast motivates other countries to join the global effort in a manner that makes a noticeable difference.
Failing to do so, as the green cards above depict, would be suicidal.
(With inputs from the International Energy Agency, CNN, COP26, and The Guardian)
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