Climate talks seen as decisive for planet’s fate start in Glasgow

Nov 01 , 2021. 13 hours ago – 21:13 KYODO NEWS

Alok Sharma, president for COP26, speaks on stage during the opening ceremony of the climate change conference on Oct. 31, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Getty/Kyodo)

EDINBURGH , Scotland – Countries around the world began two-week climate talks on Sunday to advance actions to stave off the worst impacts of global warming, having entered what is being called a “decisive decade” in the fight against the climate crisis.

One of the main aims of the 26th U.N. climate change conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, will be to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C from pre-industrial levels within reach, which scientists say will only be possible through the “most stringent” efforts to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

World leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, are expected to deliver statements during the two-day summit session starting Monday. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida may also travel to the Scottish city depending on the outcome of Sunday’s general election.

While China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not left his country during the coronavirus pandemic, is not expected to attend the summit in person, throwing cold water on moves to build momentum to the climate talks.

COP26 is drawing attention as the most significant event since COP21 in 2015, which led to the creation of the landmark Paris climate accord that aims to limit the temperature rise to well below 2 C, and preferably to 1.5 C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The world is still nowhere near that goal, with a U.N. report released last Monday showing that current pledges under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions may leave the world on track for a temperature rise of about 2.7 C by the end of the century.

The impact of climate change is estimated to be much less severe if the rise is limited to 1.5 C compared to 2 C or more. For example, it could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed to extreme heatwaves, according to U.N. scientists.

To prevent crossing the 1.5 C threshold, they have also called for cutting CO2 emissions by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero around 2050.

Under the Paris accord, countries are supposed to update their emissions reduction pledges, known as “Nationally Determined Contributions,” every five years, which are to reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.

COP26, which was postponed by one year due to the pandemic, is the first five-year review of the plans. It is also the first meeting since the United States — the world’s second largest CO2 emitter — rejoined the Paris deal under Biden earlier this year in a major policy reversal from his predecessor Donald Trump.

With many countries including the United States and Japan, and also the European Union, already aiming to move toward net-zero emissions by 2050, the focus has shifted to ambitious 2030 targets.

Biden, who has been seeking to revive U.S. leadership on climate change issues, announced in April a goal to halve emissions from 2005 levels in 2030, making the U.S. commitment around twice as ambitious as earlier promised.

Xi, in his address to the U.N. General Assembly in September last year, promised China would bring total CO2 emissions to a peak before 2030 and aim to become carbon neutral by 2060.

Japan, the fifth-largest CO2 emitter, has also raised its emissions reductions target to 46 percent from fiscal 2013 levels by fiscal 2030. But critics say the resource-poor country is not making enough efforts to reduce reliance on coal power.

Other major topics of discussions during COP26 will be delivering on a promise made by developed countries to mobilize at least $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020 and to finalize rules on how countries can reduce emissions using international carbon markets under the Paris agreement.