Glasgow Summit is the ‘Last Chance to Get Runaway Climate Change Under Control’


The new IPCC report predicts that extreme heat exposure and extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity as the world warms.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is expected to be a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change, bringing leaders together in Glasgow to accelerate progress on global climate action. 

The event is “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control,” said the COP26 organisers in the wake of the “Red Alert” report issued on Monday by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

The report sounds the alarm on the state of the climate crisis, including changing weather patterns, intensifying water cycles, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, thawing permafrost, and increasing exposure to extreme heat. 

Addressing climate change is urgent and insufficient progress has been made, as “nations still haven’t implemented the Paris Agreement, they’re still far from its 1.5°C goal, and levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise,” said Ovais Sarmad, UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, in late June at a Chatham House virtual conference ‘Climate Change 2021.’

Tough decisions will need to be made to advance the world towards the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 

“What we need are political decisions to be made. There are opportunities for these decisions and this leadership in the next few months leading up to COP26,” said Sarmad. 

The four main goals of the summit are to: 

  • Secure global net zero emissions by 2050 and keep global warming of no more than 1.5°C within reach; 
  • Enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems and build resilience infrastructure and agriculture to avoid the loss of livelihoods and lives; 
  • Follow through with the promise to mobilize US$100 billion in climate financing per year by 2020; 
  • Finalise the “Paris Rulebook” to make the 2015 Paris Agreement operational. 

“I feel there is a new enthusiasm and a new momentum around international climate action that we haven’t experienced since the adoption of the Paris Agreement. There is a renewed appetite for progress,” said Sarmad. 

Key emitters miss deadline to deliver climate pledges

This momentum, however, has not translated into action from countries so far, as 80 countries missed the deadline to submit new climate plans ahead of the Glasgow summit. 

Countries had until 31 July to submit enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which represent efforts to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

The NDCs will be included in a synthesis report on global climate progress, to be published prior to COP26.

Only 110 of the 191 signatories to the Paris Agreement submitted updated plans. Notably, key emitters, including China, India, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, have failed to submit plans.

This is “far from satisfactory,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in a statement

“I call on those countries that were unable to meet this deadline to redouble their efforts and honour their commitment under the Paris Agreement to renew or update their NDCs,” said Espinosa. 

Since the deadline, an additional 13 countries have submitted their updated NDCs. 

The level of ambition in the submitted plans is lacking, according to Espinosa. An early analysis of the NDCs showed that collective efforts fell short of the scientific requirements to limit global temperature rise by 2°C by the end of the century.

To achieve the goal of 1.5°C, emissions must be reduced by at least 45% compared to 2010 levels by the end of this decade. 

“I encourage those who have submitted their NDCs to continue reviewing and enhancing their level of ambition,” said Espinosa. “I truly hope that the revised estimate of collective efforts will reveal a more positive picture.”

“Recent extreme heatwaves, droughts and floods across the globe are a dire warning that much more needs to be done, and much more quickly, to change our current pathway. This can only be achieved through more ambitious NDCs,” Espinosa stressed.

IPCC report shows that climate change ‘endangers our health and future’ 

The major report by the IPCC has made waves, receiving widespread media attention and responses from world leaders and the global health community.

“The new IPCC report shows that every fraction of a degree hotter endangers our health and future. Similarly, every action taken to limit emissions and warming brings us closer to a healthier and safer future,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, on Twitter

“The risks posed by climate change could dwarf those of any single disease. The COVID-19 pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine for the climate crisis,” Tedros added.

The health impacts of climate change range from exacerbated respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from heatwaves to injuries and diarrhoeal disease from variable rainfall patterns and floods to malnutrition from loss of food security due to changing weather patterns and droughts.

Dead and dying animals at the Dambas, Arbajahan, Kenya, which has dried up due to successive years of very little rain. Changing weather patterns and droughts are expected to have a large impact on crops and livestock, which influences food security.

“Urbanization and climate change are intensifying contact between animals and humans, increasing the likelihood of zoonotic transmission. It’s also set to increase the burden of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, on Twitter

“We are all too aware how quickly outbreaks can wreak havoc and claim lives. It is one of many reasons the world must heed IPCC’s dire warnings about the devastating impact of climate change,” said Berkley.

“We live in an era of more frequent and more complex epidemics/pandemics with the key drivers all [as] features of the 21st century – ecology and climate change, animal/human interface, urbanisation, trade/travel,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome Trust, on Twitter.

Leaders call for action and consensus at COP26

World leaders and government officials joined calls for immediate and large-scale measures against climate change on Monday.

“As countries prepare for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, this report is a stark reminder that we must let science drive us to action,” said Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State, in a statement released on Monday. “This moment requires world leaders, the private sector, and individuals to act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet and our future in this decade and beyond.”

The report found that unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the world will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels. 

Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reaching global net-zero CO2 emissions could gradually reverse the global CO2-induce surface temperature increase, said the authors of the report

“The new IPCC report puts Pacific Island nations 0.4 degrees Celsius away from existential catastrophe,” said Frank Bainimarama, former President of Fiji and President of COP23, on Twitter. “We know what’s coming. More importantly, we know how to stop it.”

“By COP26, we need: dramatic cuts in emissions by 2030; net-zero emissions by 2050; [and] no excuses,” said Bainimarama.

“It is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet. We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister, said in a statement.

“We have a full 84 days to secure…consensus [on the 1.5 degree target] – for the Blue Pacific and for the planet,” said Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, on Twitter

Fossil fuel from rich countries hurting lives in developing world

“We should never forget the fundamental injustice at the heart of the climate emergency: our people are dying in vulnerable developing countries because of the fossil fuel burning for consumption and economic growth in rich countries,” Mohamed Nasheed, Former President of the Maldives and ambassador for the Climate Vulnerable Forum, representing 48 countries most at-risk to the effects of climate change, said in a statement.

“We are paying with our lives for the carbon someone else emitted. We will take measures soon to begin to address this injustice, which we cannot merely accept,” said Nasheed. 

“The report reaffirms India’s position that historical cumulative emissions are the source of the current climate crisis,” said India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Twitter. “The report is a clarion call for the developed countries to undertake immediate, deep emission cuts and decarbonisation of their economies.”

Image Credits: Commons Wikimedia, Brendan Cox / Oxfam.

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