Only the optimist sees progress

Only the optimist sees progress

Anyone reading the agreement adopted on Saturday in Glasgow, more than 24 hours after the official end of the climate summit, could easily ask: Should they have held overnight meeting sessions, speak for a longer day, and have hundreds of diplomats rebook return flights. ?

an agreement Ten A4 pages with 97 paragraphs Filled with advice, warnings, requests, reprimands and one tie on the back that can be summed up in one sentence: let’s finally do what we agreed in Paris in 2015 and thus ensure that average global warming remains well below 2 degrees and if it can be just under 1.5 degrees .

Critics are shameful. Prof. Geert Jan Nabors, Professor at Wachingen, lead author of the climate reports, called the convention “a very vague text without any specific goal.” In his words, it shows “the failure of negotiations with two hundred countries. You will never get out of this, the interests are very different.”

He’s right. Climate Action Tracker scientists, who have been tracking countries’ pledges since Paris, arrived this week after quickly calculating a temperature rise of about 2.4 degrees Celsius. Too many, even negotiators think. They recognized in the agreement that countries will reduce carbon dioxide by 45 percent2 emissions by 2030 (compared to 2010), but current plans lead to a 13.7 percent increase in emissions.

message of hope

Optimists still see progress. Tuvalu’s climate envoy, Seif Baeno, who said in his closing statement that his island country is sinking, described the agreement as “a powerful message of hope, promise and ambition”.

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This is also true. If more countries support their long-term goals with serious policies, the temperature rise could be limited to 1.8 degrees, according to the Climate Action Tracker — already roughly “well below 2 degrees.” Moreover, the closing statement in the chapter on “Science and Urgency” makes explicit reference to the rapidly depleting carbon budget that humanity still has at its disposal this century. This is why countries in the agreement are required to put in place new, better national climate plans by the end of next year, something that should only be formally necessary in five years. Such statements are rarely very specific.

The use of fossil fuels was never mentioned as an important cause of global warming in the climate agreement, not even in the Paris Agreement. The latest Glasgow statement identifies subsidies for coal and fossil fuels as the main culprit.

Precisely because of the call for a coal phase-out, the summit threatened to eventually derail. “How can developing countries make promises about phasing out coal or fossil fuel subsidies when they have to deal with their own development agendas?” asked Indian Climate Minister Bhubandar Yadav publicly. With the support of China, he was able to persuade Chairman Alok Sharma to phase out the term from many countries (get rid of) to be replaced by meaningless diminishing )phase out).

wide gap

It is just one example of many in Glasgow showing how difficult it is to agree on international climate policy. In Paris, the greatest conflicts were averted by separating the ultimate goal from the path to it, but in the end the wide gap between what was collectively pledged and what was offered individually by states had to be bridged.

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The big words of the heads of government in the first week were true in most cases. But national, and often economic, interests are so great that states want to hand over responsibility for the solution as much as possible to others or pass it on to the future.

EU negotiator Frans Timmermans described climate change as an “existential crisis, for many not in the future, but today”. And if that’s really the case, he said, we can’t just say that, and we have to act accordingly.

A spokesperson for the Maldives, an island nation like Tuvalu, also thought so. “For two weeks I’ve sat at the negotiating tables here in Glasgow, listening to discussions of words, commas and points.” She said it was time to treat climate change as an emergency.

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