The summit of world leaders gathered in Glasgow to galvanise the global crusade and commitment to combat the dire threat to Earth’s ecosystem and the quality and continuation of life on it, has ended leaving less hope than concerns among the enthusiasts.
It was attended by about two hundred leaders and two thousand delegates from various sectors. The leaders left on October 29, leaving their ministers and negotiation teams to iron out the much-awaited accord.
The real stake at the summit was to treat the event as the last chance to avert the disaster and the imperative strategy to counter the climate crisis by restricting the rise in global temperature below 1.50 C as compared to the preindustrial levels and attain zero emission of culprit gasses by 2050. This limit was agreed at the 2015 Paris Conference and reaffirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) in its report in August.
The crusade, in turn, mandated reducing the consumption of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum and gas products to about 45 percent, ending deforestation and designing and adopting the green ecofriendly technologies.
The Conference again acknowledged the urgency to arrest climate change and seek appropriate solutions. It also agreed to phase “down” the coal consumption that is responsible for 40 percent of annual bilge.
The agreement for a 30 percent reduction in methane emissions by 2030 was also quite important as this gas is eighty times more damaging than carbon dioxide particularly up to twenty years after its release and causes about a third of the warming dread.
Another significant step was to replace the current quinquennial conference routines to an annual moot to map progress and the next has been already slated in Egypt. Pakistan, in this context, has already announced it will end coal power production by 2030.
Another heartening aspect was that the US and China also announced to work together this decade for reducing greenhouse emissions to reach the 1.5 C limit and to seek new alliances with various countries, groups and communities for oil and gas deals and ending the licensing of new explorations.
Various business and financial leaders also pledged to enhance investments in their net zero drive for recycling, green technologies like hydrogen fuels, electric cars and other ingenious replacements for fossil fuels.
Yet eco-experts, enthusiasts and activists were rather dismayed as this progress falls quite short of the imperatives to avert the catastrophic apocalypse. Global warming for this goal, as agreed by most of the scientists, must not exceed, at worst, 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.
But Earth has already warmed over one degree Celsius than this, affecting even its vast pristine frozen icecaps, glaciers, ocean currents, storms, weather, climate and economic conditions. To stem this rise at 2 degrees Celsius by 2030, global carbon emissions would have to be slashed by 25 percent of the 2018 levels. Attaining the preferred 1.5 C limit by 2030, in this comparison, these emissions levels now, would have to be lowered by 55 percent.
Projections for the net zero emission target by 2050, as revealed by the International Energy agency, spell yet another grim scenario as the global emission plans in this estimate falls 60 percent below the requisite levels. Rendering these requisites in the investment terms, about four trillion dollars would be needed to achieve this goal.
The gains at Glasgow, also seem quite grim when viewed in the context of the United Nations report, issued in September, stipulating the likely impact of the putative pledges and promises. According to this report, even if all 200 signatories were to abide by their pledges, the global temperatures are feared to rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.
This rise, as per a general consensus of the scientists, could wreak some quite cataclysmic and irreversible changes to our ecosphere ranging from excessive heat, fire, drought rains, storms and sea level surge that will swamp many coastal cities and turn many fertile regions into deserts and uninhabitable wastelands. Lack of food and shelter could stir mass migrations, aggravate the confrontations, conflicts and terrorist onslaughts.
Realising this, many European countries like Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, have been quite strenuously striving to stem their emissions to accomplish the coveted 1.5 degree caps, beckoning the far bigger industrial giants and emitters like the United States, China, Russia and the new aspiring entrants like India and Brazil that can really save the planet.
Russia and China, however, did not go to the conference while India lobbied to water down the draft proposal from phase “out” to phase “down” coal consumption. It also avoided the more potent Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) for 2030, pressing instead for an extraordinary delay and a long-term deadline of 2070, for attaining net zero emissions. Countries like China, India, and Brazil also did not reduce their carbon emissions between 2009 and 2019 as per Kyoto and Paris accords but rather kept increasing them by an average of 1.8 percent per year.
Similarly, the richer countries’ pledge to give $100 billion per year to the poor and vulnerable countries made at the Paris summit, could not materialise. It was rather disappointing for some of the countries in the G77 group that genuinely feel that the environmental damage endured by them is caused mostly by industrial giants.
Their concern at the conference was epitomised by the Premier of Barbados, that a 2-degree rise, would be a “death sentence” for islands and coastal communities” like them. Barbados, a beautiful holiday hub, is becoming quite vulnerable to hurricanes and sea surge vagaries.
A real onus to preserve the planet, its diversity, resources and civilisation thus lies on leading industrial giants like the US, China, Japan and Russia. They have to be a lot more determined to ensure instant and drastic emission cuts and inspire, influence and lead the other mega emitters.