Orange News: Scientists have long argued that global temperature rise must be kept well below 1.5°C by mid-century to avoid the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, including extreme heat and storm surges. They have also urged countries to commit to an interim target of reducing emissions 50% by 2030 and to continuously scale up their targets to satisfy these goals. However, governments have time and time again fallen short of concrete commitments.
The latest example is the G20 Summit, which concluded a few days ago. Although the leaders of the world’s richest economies committed to accelerate efforts to limit global warming with “meaningful and effective actions “, they fell short of making a concrete pledge to achieve net zero by 2050.
British natural historian Sir David Attenborough urged COP26 delegates to “turn tragedy into triumph” and tackle climate change. Unless more is done, the planet is already on track to warm by more than 3C by the end of this century. Yet, his hopes are “not buried”. He believes people are “problem solvers” and called on leaders to think of the younger generation as they work to address climate change.
Governments should take Mainland China’s clear commitments and serious implementation targets as a strong reference for their future climate action plans. China is firmly committed to peak carbon dioxide emissions and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. This determination to strike a balance between development and emissions reduction and peak carbon dioxide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality is incorporated into China’s overall economic and social development framework, it’s Five-Year Plans. This will help ensure targets are reached.
In the latest, Working guidance for carbon dioxide peaking and carbon neutrality, China has prioritized five actions area a) Exercising nationwide planning; b) Prioritizing conservation; c) Leveraging the strengths of the government and the market; d) Coordinating efforts on the domestic and international fronts; e) Guarding against risks, in order to archive carbon dioxide peaking and carbon neutrality in full and faithful implementation of the new development philosophy. China has developed an action list with 200 plus items for all levels of the government and all participants in its economy. Strong targets, however, are only the first step. The world must follow China’s move to phase out investment and subsidies into coal and other dirty energy sources, while simultaneously ramping up renewable and low carbon energy.
Phasing out fossil fuels will be an arduous process. It requires rethinking a trillion-dollar global industry at the centre of our economies and livelihoods. This process is particularly challenging for developing countries, where coal offers a cheap energy source to fuel their economic development. Without low-cost scalable renewable alternatives, these countries will continue to be trapped in a trade-off between growth and sustainability. This does not have to be the case. Developed countries, aside from domestic investment into decarbonisation, must also fulfil their promise to contribute $100 billion annually for climate action in developing countries.
Therefore, a key agenda of COP26 is to drive action to mobilise finance, unleashing private and public sector action towards net zero. This includes stopping all financing for fossil fuels, and developing transition finance tools for high-emitting sectors. Delegates need to expend strong efforts on developing goals and pathways for finance and address the missing US$100 billion promise left unfulfilled in 2020. Developed countries must compensate for past shortfalls and clearly show how they will significantly increase their climate finance contributions as well as increase the share of adaptation finance to reach 50% of all climate finance. Failure to make progress on this goal would undermine much-needed trust in the Paris Agreement.
Aside from finance to support mitigation and adaptation, another top issue on the agenda for COP26 is to agree on a standardized reporting tool and a timeline for commitments made after 2030 to enhance evaluation and monitoring from now till 2050. After a year of delay, this COP not only needs to secure commitments for countries to keep the planet on the 1.5°C track, but it also needs to put extra effort into increasing the effectiveness and synergies of global climate collaboration, not only among the delegates, but also in line with the expectations and demands of community activists, youths, and the people most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Originally published on Orange News on 9 Nov 2021. Written by Lawrence Iu.