It's just over a week away...one of the most important
global gatherings of world leaders and climate scientists will commence which
could have huge implications for the future of our world.
The COP gatherings (Conference of the Parties) are held
every year. They provide an opportunity for the world to focus on our warming
planet and finding ways to tackle the problems caused by our addiction to
fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. The first one took place in Berlin in
1995. Unfortunately we have not made much progress over the past 25 years as
the warming effect from greenhouse gases continues to increase every
year...currently we are 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.
The most significant COP was held in Paris in 2015
when the world leaders finally agreed to limit global warming to well below
2.0C and preferably a lower target of 1.5C. Each country has promised to reduce
carbon emissions and to align their economy with this globally agreed target
and these are reviewed every five years to see which countries are on track and
which are lagging behind.
These targets and pledges are voluntary, there are
no sanctions if countries fail to meet their targets or even if they fail to
take any action to reduce emissions.
Why Is This COP Important?
This should have been held in 2020 but was postponed
due to the global pandemic. At Glasgow, each country is required to submit
their first 5 year progress report since the Paris agreement - these are called
NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). Unfortunately we have not made much
progress over the past 6 years and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) recently declared 'Code Red for Humanity'. Rather than the 1.5C
or even 'well below' 2.0C target, we are currently on track for warming of 2.9C
by the end of this century.
COP26 President Alok Sharma said "The world
will soon face catastrophe from climate breakdown if urgent action is not
What More is Needed?
Everyone knows what steps are required to reduce
carbon emissions to a sustainable level
quickly phase out coal
phase out oil and gas
more investment in renewables plus energy storage
more help for developing countries with $100bn each
year for climate
protect and improve biodiversity
reduce meat consumption and increase plant-based
Whilst everyone knows what is needed, no one is actually prepared to do it. Queen Elizabeth recently commented “It’s really
irritating when they talk, but they don’t do"
In May, the International Energy Agency released its
roadmap to net zero which called for an immediate end to all new coal, oil and
gas and instead make a massive
investment in clean energy.
How is the UK Doing?
Compared to most other developed countries, not too
bad...we have legislated for net zero emissions by 2050 and the government have
recently pledged to make our energy grid carbon neutral by 2035 by which time
we should have reduced emissions by almost 80% compared to 1990 benchmark.
Currently we are just over 40% reduction based on 1990 levels.
Earlier this week the government released its strategy for net
zero and also a strategy to decarbonise heat and homes with the aim to phase
out gas boilers by 2035 and push ahead with heat pumps. Both have received a
mixed response from the climate experts and media. Unfortunately the chancellor
refuses to borrow the required funds to meet the challenges which seems to
confirm that the government does not regard climate warming as a crisis.
Therefore in absolute terms, it currently looks like we are not likely to
hit our net zero target by 2050 and we are certainly not aligned with the IPCC's 1.5C
target. According to the CCC, we are failing to meet carbon reduction targets
for the period 2023 to 2028 and whilst we have made progress on energy, we have
failed to tackle transport and home heating.
We are responsible for less than 2% of global
emissions compared to China 28% and USA 15%. However on a per capita basis, the
average Brit emits twice as much as the average person in China whilst the
average American holds the record and emits 2x the average Brit and 4x the
average person in China.
Also, we run a mainly service-based economy with our
manufacturing off-shored to the likes of China. All of our clothing, TVs,
Phones, garden furniture, washing machine etc. etc. is mostly imported along
with all the carbon footprint associated with extracting the raw materials,
manufacture and transport of the huge volume of goods.
Our real emissions are therefore probably closer to
3% so we should not be too complacent.
What About Other Countries?
The world's biggest carbon emitter China has pledged
to become carbon neutral by 2060 and has recently announced that it will not
finance new coal production in other countries. However its domestic
consumption is heavily dependent on coal which accounts for two-thirds of
electricity demand with solar and wind providing 30%
The US is the world's second largest carbon emitter
behind China. It has pledged to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to
2005. It is aiming to become net zero by 2050 and Biden has pledged to aim for
100% carbon-free electricity by 2035.
India is the world's third largest carbon emitter
and has pledged to reduce emissions by 35% by 2030 which is clearly
unambitious. It has not set a target date for net zero and has not (so far)
delivered an updated NDC for COP26. India has announced plans to increase coal
production as part of it's post-covid economic recovery.
The EU is responsible for around 8% of global
emissions and has legislated to reduce GHG emissions by 55% by 2030.
Whilst many countries have pledged to reduce
emissions over the longer term...2050 or 2060, action on short term reductions
are important so there needs to be much more focus on ways to get emissions
down by at least 50% by 2030. This looks increasingly unlikely with just over 8 years to go. Currently we are seeing carbon emissions still
rising year after year (except 2020 due to Covid lockdown) and we are on track not
for a reduction but an increase of 16% by 2030.
A lot of focus will be on securing net zero
emissions by 2050 and keeping the lower target of 1.5C "within reach". The recent IPCC
report confirmed that 1.5C was still possible "but only if unprecedented action is taken now".
There is no sign of unprecedented action from
any G20 country. The pledges from each country made in Paris in 2015 were not
enough to keep warming below 2.0C let alone 1.5C and the updated pledges (NDCs)
for COP26 are still not enough.
Personally, I can only conclude that our world
leaders do not yet take the climate issue seriously...they are not responding
with the urgency required to tackle a climate crisis because they don't really
accept we have an emergency. Sure they will make promises and the event will be
hailed as a success...but then it will be back to economic growth and business as usual. Subsidies and
licences for new coal, oil and gas to grow our economies and preserve jobs;
more and more consumption and more air travel and world cruises...in fact just
more of everything.
And of course the climate problems will get worse
each year and on we go to COP27 in Egypt...as if by arranging a conference each
year and reading lots of reports and discussing the issue they are actually doing something.
So, I am really not expecting very much but would like very
much to be surprised! Until there is sign of real progress, I will continue to take an increasingly defensive position with my investments...it may be some time!
Over to you...what do you think about the climate
issues and the COP26 gathering? Leave a comment below.