UN ‘Emissions Gap’ report just days before COP26

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All eyes turn towards Scotland in the coming week as COP26 is set to begin on November 1. Ahead of COP26, organisations across the globe scramble to prepare for the international climate conference.

Governments have began releasing their revised plans to lower their carbon emissions by 2030; the European Union, United States, South Africa, United Kingdom, Canada and Argentina are amongst them. 

These plans are known as ‘nationally defined contributions’ (NDCs). Ideally these NCDs would have been submitted prior to now, but many key countries have not released them as of yet – there is hope that these key stakeholders will announce their NDCs in Glasgow. 

The United Nations released a new report entitled “Emissions Gap Report 2021: the Heat is On” on October 26, just days before COP26 is to begin. 

Image credit: United Nations Environment Program

The report is used, as defined in its introduction, to estimate global greenhouse gas emissions if NDCs are met and where we are headed if major change is not implemented. 

Global greenhouse gases are set to be 16 per cent higher by the end of this decade than they are right now, if no policy changes are made. 

The World Meteorological Organisation are also going to announce that the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit an all time high last year, setting a new record. 

The report has found that the current NCDs announced by the countries above will only cut one-seventh of the emissions needed to maintain the one point five degree celsius limit above pre-industrial times. 

The world has currently reached a one point one degree celsius rise above pre-industrial levels. 

The report also warns that if countries do meet their newest NCDs as planned, the world will still hit a two point seven degree celsius rise in 2100. 

The United Nations asked for new NCDs ahead of COP26 in hopes that more progress would be made in strengthening countries’ goals for their carbon budgets. 

The United States, Great Britain, European Union, Canada and Japan are amongst those who have made some progress and have promised to make bigger commitments to cutting carbon emissions. 

Image credit: Sky News

Saudi Arabia announced days ago that it plans to be net zero in carbon emissions by 2060. It is because of this that many hope India will soon release their own NCD in the next coming days. 

The United Nations report remains concerned about Russia and Australia’s carbon emissions and has found that it is unlikely that they will have any reductions by 2030. 

Australia has committed to net zero by 2050, however, they will not intervene as a government by passing legislation, but instead they are relying on the consumers and companies to do so. 

China, a major player in the climate crisis, is the one to watch as it has been described as unpredictable. The Chinese President Xi Jinping, has said that China may reach its goals faster than promised, however, this will still not be enough. 

Many countries struggle to pass legislation to realise these targets. Included in this struggle is the European Union, who has promised large goals like reducing their carbon emissions to 55 per cent less than the 1990 levels by 2030. This has yet to be agreed on by the 27 member states. 

As Sir David Attenborough calls on world leaders to make the change before it’s too late for change. He spoke about “the changes to the planet we are responsible for” and that we all have a “moral responsibility” to climate refugees. Boris Johnson has announced he is “very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go” while speaking to school children. 

Image credit: BBC News

A big takeaway from the report by the United Nations was that there was a missed opportunity by governments in the recovery of COVID-19 in the economy. 

Governments around the world could have invested in renewable energy sectors of the economy and potentially had a huge effect on their climate change policies with “green spending”. 

There are many to watch at COP26 next week, including Scotland’s own First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who will speak on Monday in Glasgow. 

It is said that she plans to speak on how smaller countries like Scotland can lead the way in climate justice as well as speak about the £100 billion that will hopefully soon become available to developing countries in 2023, three years later than promised.

COP26 starts on Monday, November 1 2021.

Feature image credit: unece.org

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4th Year Law and Politics student

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