Friday, September 29, 2023

What ambition to protect the climate?

After a hellish summer, marked by extreme weather events, the UN Secretary-General is hosting a special summit on Wednesday to pressure world leaders to be more ambitious in the fight against climate change.

Climate collapse has begundeclared Antonio Guterres, in reaction to the announcement of the world record for summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere by the European Copernicus observatory.

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening session of the second Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) summit, September 18, 2023.

Photo: Getty Images / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

When he announced, in December 2022, his intention to convene leaders from around the world to a Climate Ambition Summit, he could not imagine that 2023 would go down in history as a year of climate disasters and human tragedies.

Spectacular images of historic wildfires, scorching heat waves hitting nearly every continent and deadly floods will provide the backdrop to this high-level meeting.

And if he is true to himself, Guterres will not hesitate to use this spectacular context to remind policymakers that their inaction has catastrophic effects for the planet’s inhabitants.

Will the repeated disasters experienced this year be enough to convince them to improve their climate actions and announce a gradual exit from fossil fuels?

It’s a little difficult to be very optimistic about it.

A Firefighter Walks Past A House Destroyed By Fire.

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Tens of millions of people are uprooted by natural disasters due to the impact of climate change. (File photo)

Photo: Associated Press/Noah Berger

Bridging the gap between what should be done and what is done

The main objective of this summit is to pressure political leaders to step up their climate action.

Because the gap between what science prescribes to stabilize the climate and what governments do is too big.

To convince them to take the necessary turn, Antonio Guterres has a very important tool in his hands: the famous Global review of climate action, published ten days ago by the United Nations climate agency. The Paris Agreement required comprehensive reporting on the effectiveness of measures countries have taken to protect the climate since the agreement was signed in 2015.

Imagine a big climate report card for all 195 signatory countries.

The UN is giving a big warning: according to this report, global emissions are far from being in line with the emission reduction trajectories necessary to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°C, which is the goal set in the preamble to the Paris Agreement.

To avoid exceeding this threshold, IPCC experts say in their most recent report, emissions must be reduced by 42% by 2030.

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However, the Global Assessment tells us that with the commitments of the different countries on the table, we are heading towards a reduction of 0.3%.

A gap, you say?

We understand that Antonio Guterres wants to change things.

The difficult exit from fossil fuels

Oil Well.

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Oil wells in Alberta. (File photo)

Photo: Canadian Press / Larry MacDougal

The latest G20 summit in India, which recently brought together 20 countries that produce around 80% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, gave us another fairly clear picture of the gap between what science prescribes to limit the effects of climate change and the firmness of States to solve the problem.

Although there were only 20, the countries failed to agree on a fundamental aspect of the fight against climate change: to formally commit, in the final declaration of the G20, to gradually eliminate fossil energy sources.

Because to stabilize the climate there are not a thousand possible trajectories, say the IPCC experts in their latest report: we must reduce substantially the use of fossil fuels.

However, the trend is the opposite: the International Energy Agency recently told us that coal consumption increased by more than 3% in 2022, and the trend is expected to continue in 2023 and 2024.

Added to these data is a report published last week by the organization Oil Change International, which tells us that Canada could become the second country in terms of increased oil and gas production by 2050. It would be ahead of the United States, but They precede Russia, Norway and Saudi Arabia.

The difficulty for certain countries in getting rid of fossil fuels is a major obstacle to convincing states to increase their climate ambition.

These tensions will most likely come to light at Wednesday’s summit.

Empty promises prohibited

The Prime Minister Of Cape Verde, Ulisses Correia E Silva.

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Cape Verde Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva addresses the United Nations on sustainable development, Monday, September 18, 2023.

Photo: Associated Press/Richard Drew

The countries that asked to speak at the United Nations during the summit will have no choice but to announce new news.

This is a condition imposed by the Secretary-General: States invited to speak at this forum must announce improved targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a clear timetable for phasing out fossil fuels, or new sums to contribute to the climate change. action in developing countries.

Recycled advertisements or declarations of good intentions, without firm promises, will not be tolerated.

Antonio Guterres is concerned about the image that these large international meetings generate among the general public: these summits in which leaders who come from the other side of the world by plane take turns on the podium to say how concerned they are about the state of the climate. . without announcing new concrete actions.

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Very concerned about the growing cynicism of citizens regarding the international climate negotiations, the UN Secretary General has clearly announced that at this summit there will be no room for green washor greenwashing, by policy makers or the private sector.

Fight this cynicism

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber.

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Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, president-designate of the UNFCCC COP28 climate conference and CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, speaks at a side event to the UNFCCC SB58 Bonn climate change conference, 8 June.

Photo: Getty Images / Sascha Schuermann

This is a project that unfortunately goes beyond the power and exclusive will of Antonio Guterres.

Citizen cynicism regarding the effectiveness and relevance of international climate debates is very real.

The fact, for example, that the next UN climate conference, COP28, will be held next December in the oil-producing United Arab Emirates, has greatly contributed to the phenomenon in recent months.

And more… The fact that the conference was chaired by Sultan al-Jaber added fuel to the fire: Minister of Industry and Technology of his country, he heads the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company group, the largest national oil company in the United States. Emirates.

It is hard not to be cynical about the fact that in 2023, in the era of the climate emergency, a United Nations climate conference will be led by an oil producer.

Added to this is the fact that countries that claim to prioritize the fight against climate change continue to approve fossil fuel projects. We think, among others, of countries such as Canada, Norway, Japan and Germany.

In this context, many citizens are tired of being told that they must change their way of life, while governments seem to act in the opposite direction, despite the nice words.

When Antonio Guterres calls on leaders not to make empty promises at the Climate Ambition Summit, he certainly has in mind preserving citizens’ trust in public climate action.

Thoroughly reform the international financial system

A Protester Holds A Sign That Says:

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A protester holds a sign that reads: ‘It’s time to have a treaty on the non-proliferation of fossil fuels’ during a demonstration against fossil fuels and for the climate, Place de la République in Paris, on the sidelines of the summit the new global financial compact summit, June 23, 2023.

Photo: Getty Images / THOMAS SAMSON

One of the main topics of the summit will undoubtedly be the reform of international finance.

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The architecture of international financial aid as we know it today, led by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was designed at the end of World War II, through the Bretton Woods agreements (1944). This system has poorly adapted to the new climate reality.

Weakened by repeated climate disasters, vulnerable countries can no longer get out of the water. The debt spiral is spiraling out of control as infrastructure is destroyed and levels of poverty and food insecurity rise.

For many of these countries, international aid modalities simply no longer meet the needs.

In an attempt to find answers to this problem, several leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, want to launch a reform of financial channels between the North and the South.

Supporters of a reform of the global financial system propose several solutions to modernize it, such as the idea of ​​​​reducing countries’ debt by including clauses in bilateral loan contracts that provide for a suspension of payments in the event of a climate disaster. The United Kingdom has already integrated this measure, but the resistance of industrialized countries to change remains strong.

Climate Demonstration In New York.

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A person wearing a mask during a march to kick off Climate Week in New York.

Photo: Reuters / EDUARDO MUÑOZ

We understand that this one-day climate summit will not solve the fate of the world. However, the fact that the planet’s leaders have been invited to speak only if they are there to announce concrete actions, and not just good words and wind, is already a step forward.

Antonio Guterres is smart and exploits one of the most powerful aspects of the Paris Agreement: moral pressure.

The agreement is non-binding and there are no rules forcing countries to keep their promises, but it is designed to require countries to reveal details of their climate policies and reduction targets.

This measure forces countries to compare themselves with their neighbors and encourages them to do better. Without being binding and without the measures adopted by countries being sufficient to stabilize the climate, the Paris Agreement drives climate ambition upwards.

The opinions of others and the desire to do better than your neighbor can have positive effects on the outcome.

This is exactly the method used by Antonio Guterres at this summit: he wants to focus attention on the most ambitious countries so that others are encouraged to do more.

This gamble is worth it, despite all the work that remains to be done.

Times of National
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