As the first week at COP27 comes to an end, the new edition of the Global Carbon Project, published this Friday, November 11, shows no significant progress in terms of reducing carbon emissions at the global level, with record levels still forecast for 2022. So much so that the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C seems well and truly buried.
Fears of compromise
This is one more study that supports the thesis that the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, introduced in the Paris Agreement in 2015, is unattainable. According to the new edition of the Global Carbon Project, published this Friday, November 11, “if current emission levels persist, there is now a 50% chance that global warming of 1.5°C will be exceeded in nine years”. And that seems to be the trajectory we are following, since according to this work, projections for 2022 show that global CO2 emissions remain at record levels, with no signs of decreasing.
Egypt, the host nation holding the presidency of the COP27 summit, is reportedly struggling to find common ground among member countries on the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to a BBC report, ministers have been in intense negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh over the weekend to come up with a robust action plan to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius climate target amid fears of watering down the deal to close the emissions gap.
The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Simon Stiell, recently revealed that no progress has been made so far.
According to the UN climate chief, not enough progress has been made so far. “My observations are that there are too many unresolved problems,” Simon Stiell said at the weekend meeting. “If we create a logjam in the process, we will not get a result that deserves the crisis.”
Carbon Brief, a UK-based website that specializes in climate change science and policy, has claimed that there are differences between countries on the feasibility of the 1.5C threshold.
However, one of the big concerns is that, as organizers struggle to find a way forward, a clear statement of commitment to the 1.5°C figure could be eluded.
In last year’s Glasgow climate pact, all countries agreed to “keep 1.5°C alive” by making “rapid, deep and sustained” reductions in greenhouse gases.
But at a G20 meeting in Indonesia in August, ministers were unable to agree on a communiqué on climate change as China and India reportedly questioned the scientific feasibility of the 1.5°C thresholds.
Such are the differences between countries here, there are fears that the final document being drafted by the Egyptians could water down or exclude the 1.5C target.
“The 1.5°C target is dead”
This goal of limiting the temperature to 1.5°C was introduced in the 2015 Paris Agreement to address the concerns of small island states. This has become over the years the central objective of climate action, in particular, due to the intense advocacy of NGOs. But according to François Gemenne, a specialist in the geopolitics of the environment and member of the IPCC*, we must return to this “illusory” objective and plead for a “more realistic” objective of 2°C.
Ahead of COP27, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meanwhile said the 1.5°C target was “in resuscitation”. At the same time, more than a thousand scientists stated bluntly that “the 1.5°C target was dead”. “There is no credible trajectory to reach 1.5°C and it is urgent to say this clearly to the world”, they wrote in an open letter published by the Scientist Rebellion collective, which has been carrying out actions since mid-October of daily civil disobedience in Germany.
The World Meteorological Organization, in a report published earlier this week, estimates that the last eight years (2015-2022) are on track to become the eight hottest on record. And that “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are so high that the 1.5°C threshold set in the Paris Agreement is barely within our reach”, according to its secretary general, Petteri Taalas. To finish burying this objective, a study published in the journal Nature last spring also indicated that we could exceed the symbolic bar of 1.5°C in less than ten years.
Climate change is a gradual problem
According to several reports published before COP27, corroborated by the new summary of climate commitments published by the Climate Action Tracker, Thursday, November 10, we are heading for a warming of +2.4°C, taking into account climate contributions to 2030. These are the same figures as those published at COP26 in Glasgow last year.
“There has been no substantial improvement in existing net zero commitments since,” regrets the research group. Taking long-term commitments into account, the trajectory is at +2°C. But that implies that they are well and truly kept.
It is not too late to act, assures François Gemenne. “Because climate change is not a binary problem but a gradual one. So every tenth of a degree more will make a huge difference and cause additional suffering and disasters around the world. No action against climate change is useless,” he recalls.
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