The United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26, begins Sunday Oct. 31 in Glasgow. Its outcome could determine whether the world is closer to a net zero carbon economy by 2050.
The climate conference will bring together representatives from all over the globe to discuss their plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting climate changes. The main question is whether countries will increase their commitment to the Paris Agreement, an international plan that was established in 2015 and aims to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. It also aims to reduce global warming to below 1.5 C (2.7 F) by 20100.
Although 197 countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, it is not enough to stabilize the climate below 1.5 C. Scientists say that the world would have to quickly eliminate fossil fuels from its energy sources to achieve a 45% reduction on 2010 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Live Science reported that the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement in 2019 under President Donald Trump. After his election in 2021, President Joe Biden committed again to the agreement.
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According to organizers, the goals of COP26 are to encourage countries to agree on ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction plans by 2030; to collaborate to support adaptation to climate changes that have already taken place; and to mobilize developed nations to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance for investment in global net Zero, which is the limit of the amount of carbon we emit compared to what is removed from the atmosphere. Finalization of the Paris Rulebook would be the final step towards achieving the Paris Agreement.
Every year, the COP meeting takes place (this is the 26th annual). The conference is the focus of all eyes. As part of Paris Agreement, countries agreed that they would provide updates every five years about their highest emission reduction ambitions. This should have happened in 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic delayed that year's COP meeting. These updates will be made in Glasgow this year.
All countries are asked to submit an "Adaptation Communication", which will describe the challenges each country faces in adapting to changing climates and what they plan on doing to overcome them.
Nations, particularly developed ones, will be asked to contribute their resources. In the Paris Agreement, developed countries were required to raise $100 billion annually to finance climate change mitigation efforts in developing countries. The intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, (OECD) reports that the combined total of $78.9 trillion in financing was provided by developed countries in 2018.
Delegates to COP26 will also try to finalize Paris Rulebook. Much of it was adopted at UN COP24 in Poland in 2018. There are still some unfinished guidelines. The most important issue is that the countries must still agree on how to reduce emissions. Carbon markets are a key component of the Paris Agreement. Companies or countries that have difficulty reducing their emissions can purchase emissions credits from companies more capable. This will create a balance that reduces overall emissions.
Double-dipping is possible. Imagine if Amazon, a U.S.-based business, converted its delivery vans into electric-only. Amazon and the U.S. could try to claim carbon credits in return for the reduction of emissions. Climate policy experts warn that carbon markets may not be able to prevent more emissions than they already are.
There are indications that COP26 is facing strong headwinds in achieving these goals. BBC obtained leaked documents that reveal that some developed countries are trying to undermine the necessity to shift away from fossil fuels by lobbying against financial goals.
Original publication on Live Science