Hopes fade for + 1.5˚C limit as COP26 draft deal delays decisions

Energy & Climate Change

From Karen Thomas in Glasgow

Hopes are fading that parties at COP26 will cut emissions hard enough, fast enough to limit global heating to within 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists and NGOs have now seen an outline draft of the climate summit’s final agreement, published in the early hours of this morning.

Critics call it “stunningly, pitifully inadequate” – heavy on expressions of concern and regret, light on points of action.

The draft recognises the gap between what countries promise and where we need to be, urging parties to the Paris Agreement to strengthen their national climate targets for 2030.

However, it reiterates the temperature goal of +2˚C that the parties agreed back in 2015. In 2018, scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reviewed all the research, and declared +1.5˚C to be the safe limit to global heating.

The draft lacks binding actions, defers industrialised nations’ emissions cuts and fails to close gaps in existing and future funding to help small and developing island nations to manage the worst impacts of climate change.

It says nothing about phasing out fossil fuels.

“There’s pretty much four pages of let’s-work-this-out-later,” tweeted Carbon Brief deputy editor Simon Evans.

“It’s not a plan to solve the climate crisis; it’s an agreement that we’ll all cross our fingers and hope for the best,” says Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan. “It’s a polite request that countries maybe, possibly do more next year. That’s not good enough.”

A 2.4˚C trajectory

Yesterday, Climate Action Tracker reported that countries’ current emissions promises put the world on course to heat by 2.4˚C. Global heating on that scale will devastate many coastal and island states, particularly in the global south.

A 2.4˚C climate trajectory means more extreme weather – melting ice caps, rising sea levels, rainstorms, cyclones, floods and droughts – and for every country and community in the world.

Speaking last night to young scientists at the Climate Science Olympiad awards, Austrian climate scientist and former IPCC secretary Renata Christ reiterated that the safe upper limit to global heating remains 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels.

“We are really in trouble, with climate change,” Dr Christ said. “Only the [IPCC’s] low and very low emissions scenarios keep us to within safe limits of global warming. We need to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050.”

UK prime minister Boris Johnson returns to the Glasgow summit to meet climate leaders today.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband urged the prime minister to step up.

“The last 24 hours have been a devastating reality check on what this summit has actually delivered,” he said.

“We are miles from where we need to be to halve global emissions this decade… This summit will not deliver anything like what we needed.

“He has to turn to plotting a path out of Glasgow that can keep 1.5 alive.”

More #COP26 bits and bobs @KT_environment

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