Clock starts ticking at COP 25

UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres addressing the attendies of COP25 in Madrid. Photo: Antonio Gutteres/ Twitter

Climate change has reached the “point of no return,” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ahead of the global climate conference, COP25, which started this week in Madrid, focused on implementing targets agreed in the Paris Agreement four years ago.

In 2015, governments committed to limit average global temperature rise to only 1.5oC above pre-industrial temperatures. This meant countries had to implement effective climate crisis solutions by the end of 2020, but that has not happened. In fact, some countries like the United States have pulled out of the Paris Agreement altogether, and other countries have not been ambitious enough. Norway, a leader in cutting emissions, continues to produce oil and gas. China too has taken action to reduce emissions, but failed to meet its targets, and might now even be increasing emissions. Despite moves towards renewable energy, India is investing in new coal-fired electricity plants.

“China’s proposed coal expansion is so far out of alignment with the Paris Agreement that it would put the necessary reductions in coal power out of reach,” said Christine Shearer, an analyst from Global Energy Monitor, quoted in the Guardian.

As the Paris Agreement approaches its deadline, the main discussion at COP25 is Article 6, which focuses on providing financial support to developing countries to reduce emissions and on cutting emissions by using global carbon markets.

Carbon markets, which have existed since 1997, aim to limit greenhouse gas emissions by trading in carbon credits. The UN provides carbon credits to developing countries for emission reduction projects. Buyers (other countries) can use the credits to fulfil their own reduction targets and sellers can use the money to pave their way to carbon neutrality.

Under current trends, achieving the Paris target will be much more difficult than when the deal was finalised. “Ten years ago, if countries had acted on the science, they would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3% each year,” Guterres said. “Today, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% each year.”

David Molden, Director of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) told Nepali Times: “A 1.5 degree temperature rise is already too hot for mountains, and it is already a state of emergency for many mountain people who are on the front line of climate change.

Read Also: Climate denial in the Himalaya, Ramesh Bhushal

There are ominous signs of the climate emergency even as COP25 delegates meet in Madrid.  Ongoing wildfires in Australia have forced more than 600 families from their homes, sea levels reached a record high in Venice, and higher temperatures affected this year’s monsoon in South Asia, resulting in deadly floods. Cyclones have hit more frequently, including Cyclone Bulbul and Fani which hit coastal areas of Bangladesh and India this year.

In the next 12 months, said Guterres, “it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent with reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.”

ICIMOD’s David Molden said his organisation “would like to work closely with our member countries and other allies to make sure that the voice of the mountains is heard, and to build momentum for much more ambitious climate action, critical for mountain people.”


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