Thursday, October 21

Europe and China relaunch the fight against climate change after Trump’s defeat | Climate and Environment


The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during her speech from Brussels at the summit this Saturday.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during her speech from Brussels at the summit this Saturday.KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL / EFE

If only the promises made by countries for 30 years were taken into account, the problem of climate change would already be in the process of being solved, which would translate into avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of warming. Most of the world’s governments – more than a hundred, which accumulate more than 65% of global greenhouse gases – have already promised that they will reach net zero emissions by mid-century. The problem is that the plans that the vast majority of these countries have in the short term, for the next 10 years, do not lead to fulfilling those promises by 2050. The Paris Agreement – of which this Saturday the fifth anniversary was celebrated in a virtual summit in which 75 heads of state have participated — it was foreseen that during this 2020 the governments will update, upwards, the emission cut plans for the next decade (contribution known by the acronym NDC). The pandemic, and also in part the four years of Donald Trump’s mandate, have brought that calendar to pieces and so far only five countries have officially updated their plans.

However, the European Union, almost in discount time, has managed to close an agreement between the Twenty-seven to be able to present its new NDC in 2020 (with a cut target to 2030 of 55% compared to 1990 levels, 15 points more than the previous one). Chinese President Xi Jinping also announced on Saturday that he will revise his NDC upwards, to reach his carbon dioxide emissions ceiling by 2030.

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, during his speech at the Climate Action Summit. On video, the full speech.EUROPA PRESS | VIDEO: ATLAS

Specifically, China is now committing to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by “more than 65%” compared to the level of 2005 (compared to the previous objective which was to reduce between 60% and 65%). In addition, Xi Jinping has ensured that in 2030 the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption will increase by 25% (five points more than the previous promise) and that it will multiply its current wind and solar capacity by almost three times. “China’s effort will ensure rapid growth in wind and solar power over the next decade. However, Beijing has the potential to do more ”, said Li Shuo, from the environmental organization Greenpeace.

Only the EU and China accumulate almost 40% of global emissions (with approximately 10% and 30% respectively in 2018). The Chinese announcement, together with the expected return of the United States to the Paris Agreement and the new EU objective, now relaunch the fight against climate change, which has suffered a paralysis during Trump’s four years.

“I call on all the leaders of the world to declare the state of the climate emergency in their countries,” said António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, who recalled that 38 countries already they have done. This summit is preceded by the presentation of several scientific reports and UN agencies that warn of how far countries are from complying with the Paris Agreement, which sets the goal of increasing the temperature compared to pre-industrial levels. is on average below two degrees and, as far as possible, does not exceed 1.5 degrees. Guterres recalled that at the moment the planet is already at 1.2 degrees. “If we don’t change course, we can be heading for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than three degrees this century,” he added. “Can anyone continue to deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” He asked.

At this summit – organized by the UN together with the governments of the United Kingdom and France and in which the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, also participates – only heads of state who could publicly present more ambitious measures have been invited to participate.

In total, 45 countries have announced that during the remainder of the year or during 2021 they will present new cut plans for the next decade with tougher objectives. More than half of them correspond to the 27 members of the EU, in addition to the United Kingdom (which will increase its emission reduction target to 68% in 2030 and which has pledged not to finance more fuel projects fossils outside its borders) and other states such as Colombia, which is committed to reducing its gases by 51% within a decade.

But all the attention is focused on a small group of powers. Although the effects of climate change are suffered by all countries – and especially the least developed ones – the main causes can be counted almost on the fingers of one hand. Six blocks are now directly responsible for 70% of all global emissions: China, the United States, the European Union, India, Russia and Japan.

Only two of those countries have been absent from this Saturday’s appointment. Russia, which has had a very low profile in international negotiations against climate change for years, and the US The non-participation of the United States – the country that has historically emitted the most greenhouse gases – may be the epilogue of the Administration of Donald Trump in the section on the international climate fight. Trump reneged on the Paris Agreement and removed his country from this pact. However, the victory of Joe Biden, who has promised that the US will return to protocol as soon as he takes office, is another reason for optimism among leaders.

“Welcome. Welcome home, American friend, “said French President Emmanuel Macron in his speech. “He should never have left,” insisted Sebastián Piñera, president of Chile. In his speech, although without mentioning the US, Xi Jinping also referred to Trump’s stage, when he criticized that “unilateralism leads nowhere” in international relations.

Zero emissions

In addition to promises about new plans for the next decade, 24 countries have reaffirmed their intention to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality by 2050, the way to ensure that the temperature increase does not exceed 1.5 degrees. Spain is one of them. The government approved its decarbonization strategy for 2050 in November and has already presented it to the UN. “The climate emergency is the greatest challenge for our civilization”, has valued Sánchez. His government approved a symbolic “climate emergency declaration” in January. Among the commitments of that declaration was to send the climate change bill to Congress in the first 100 days of the mandate. The project was sent to the courts, but Congress is still proceeding with the process, which will not conclude until next year after several delays.

Other characters, such as Pope Francis, have also been invited to the summit. In his speech, the Pope has also asked all countries to set the goal of zero emissions in 2050. And he has promised that the Vatican State will reach that goal before the middle of the century.

After more than six hours of speeches, including speeches by activists, large companies, financial institutions and scientific organizations, the summit has concluded. “We have advanced? Yes, “said Alok Sharma, representative of the British Government and president of the next climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.” Have we done enough? ” “No”. Because, as Sharma has recalled, the efforts on the table are not yet leading to compliance with the Paris Agreement.

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