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Why a crucial climate summit in November may fail

November's crucial COP26 international climate summit may fail unless the world's governments reach consensus on long-pending issues

UN Secretary General António Guterres is hoping for climate solidarity between nations.
UN Secretary General António Guterres is hoping for climate solidarity between nations. (Reuters)

“We need solidarity, otherwise we are headed for catastrophe,” said UN secretary general António Guterres at a press conference on 21 September. It came after a largely inconclusive meeting of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) member countries to discuss the COP26 climate conference on 1-12 November. India declined to set a new, more ambitious clean energy target or a net zero emissions target. The Indian delegation instead pressed Western economies to deliver on the long-pending promise of $100 billion (around  7 trillion)per year to developing economies to help them manage a transition to clean energy.

November’s climate summit, already delayed by a year due to covid-19, could yet be a total failure. Guterres said as much at the press conference. And if that were indeed the case, the results would be disastrous. Time is running out to ensure international policies are in place to meet the UN’s goal of reducing fresh global CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from August made very clear, it’s paramount that the world meets this target, and the subsequent one of zero emissions by 2050, for us to have any chance of avoiding disastrous climate change.

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For this, individual nations need to pronounce better domestic CO2 targets and follow these up with suitable policy decisions. Western nations such as the UK and US, despite their staggering historical emissions, currently seem content to announce net-zero targets and sit on their hands. Meanwhile, the all-important issue of climate finance, which had derailed COP25 in 2019, remains unresolved. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently admitted that only about $80 billion is in place and the rest might not be in place by 1 November.

While India is right to highlight the glaring gaps in rhetoric, the country’s emission targets and policies leave much to be desired. While India is on track to meet its requirements to limit global heating to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, that is simply not good enough. The country’s policies are simply not compatible with restricting heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is the safety threshold. 

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A damning Climate Action Tracker report published by two climate science and policy institutes, Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute, found that all major emitting countries, and especially the G20 nations, are falling woefully short of meeting their Paris 2015 pledges. India’s efforts, while considered “almost sufficient” for the 2 degrees Celsius target, are, on the whole, considered “highly insufficient”. It’s high time nations dug their heads out of the sand.

Also Read: India’s economy can lose $35 trillion without climate action

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