Here is my assessment of what the outlook looks like at the start of the meeting.
By Dr. Hari Lamba November 2, 2021
The global climate change meeting will happen in the first two weeks of November in Glasgow, Scotland. Officially this is called COP26 or the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties, or the nations that signed the climate change treaty developed in 1992. What happens at this meeting is supremely important to see if the world will come to grips with climate change.
The Paris Agreement had nations agree to each doing whatever they could voluntarily. But the sum total of commitments (Intended Nationally Determined Commitments) were not enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Then in 2018, the IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), in its 1.5C Report told the world that in order to keep the global average temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (to avoid the worst consequences of climate change), the world needed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 50% by 2030 and to zero by 2050, along with significant reductions in methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Well, where do we stand at the start of the Glasgow meeting?
At about 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, China is at the top of the list. The main reason for its high emissions is that about 60% of its energy use (about 20% of global use) comes from coal. Chinese president Xi Jinping had earlier announced that China would peak its emissions by 2030. Then recently he had declared that China would peak its emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral or be net zero in its emissions by 2060 (carbon emissions totally reduced by carbon absorption elsewhere). President Xi Jinping will deliver his address remotely but is not expected to change these goals.
The next in line is the US, whose emissions currently are about half of China’s. Earlier in the year, President Joe Biden had declared that the US will aim to drastically reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and be net zero in emissions by 2050. However, because of recent legislative challenges, it has become clear that he will have to figure out as to how to meet these goals as he heads to Glasgow. Path breaking climate initiatives by California that are demonstrated to work could certainly help him in his plans.
Then, the European Union and the UK are the next highest in emissions. They both have advanced very aggressive goals of greenhouse gas reductions of 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 (EU) and 78% below 1990 levels by year 2035 (UK).
With its emissions about a third of the US, India still represents a big challenge for the world. So, even though it has announced big increases in solar energy, it announced on Day 2 that it would achieve net zero emissions by 2070. It also announced some significant renewable energy goals for 2030 and said it would reduce carbon emissions by that year. If India intends that like China, its increased energy use will be based on coal, then combined with China’s continued use of coal, there is no way that there can be a satisfactory outcome from Glasgow. Progress by all other nations will get wiped out.
There are bound to be aggressive negotiations, and as in the past, US leadership may prove crucial. Then the whole question of how to help the other developing nations needs to be factored in. Donor nations have not even yet met the low target of $100 billion of financing of developing nations that they promised at Paris. As the prime minister of Barbados pointed out at the opening ceremony, the world needed more like $ 500 billion per year, and that if there are not effective solutions soon, this will amount to a death sentence for small island nations like theirs.
What is certain is that the success of Glasgow will be judged on whether the world as a whole begins to agree to peak its greenhouse gas emissions soon or begins reducing emissions immediately. Mr. Alok Sharma, the president for COP26, who is a British member of parliament, has a big challenge negotiating the outcomes. Will he succeed in achieving a positive outcome? At the beginning of COP26, it looks tough!!"
The author Dr. Hari Lamba, has experience in engineering, business and ecology. He has a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with about 40 years of experience in industry, both in engineering product development and in advanced technology.