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Glasgow Climate World Summit: There is no Planet B

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COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, has formally begun in Glasgow. (31 October 2021) UNFCCC/Kiara Worth

In November, the world’s attention will be focused on the proceedings and outcomes of the United Nations COP26 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Glasgow. We will be told, as we have been repeatedly by the IPCC, that this is the last-ditch attempt to save the planet and perhaps humanity from the catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change (GW&CC) through the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in our atmosphere. Alok Sharma, the British cabinet minister currently serving as president of COP 26 calls it a “turning point” point for humanity.

To that end, the world will be encouraged to abandon all fossil fuel-based energy generation, which for years has represented more that 80 percent of global energy consumption. The gathering in Glasgow will also enthusiastically and appropriately, welcome the increases of alternative energy sources in many countries, especially wind and solar, which currently provide about four percent of global energy consumption. Unfortunately, such alternative sources of energy are projected to remain modest compared to coal, natural gas and oil. This trend is compounded by rising energy demands in developing countries where fossil fuels remain a dependency.

Even developed countries such as Canada will not be able to meet the targets voluntarily set at COP21 in Paris. On October 6th the Globe and Mail reported: “Canada is on pace to fall well short of its emissions goals, according to a new government-funded report that says the country’s current strategies will reduce its greenhouse gas output by only 16 percent, relative to 2005 levels, by 2030 — a far cry from the 40-percent cut that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised.”

Ironically, the UK government (host of COP26) is permitting the first deep coal mine in 30 years to be created in Cumbria with most of the extracted coal to be exported to Europe. This underlines another misunderstanding perhaps widely held, namely, the atmosphere pays no attention to the source of GHG emissions. A ton of carbon absorbed in the atmosphere from Beijing has the same global impact as one emitted from Montreal.

The gap between climate diplomacy at COP meetings and the national energy policy decisions implemented between them has fostered cynicism about the value of targets that are undermined as much by hypocrisy as by chemistry.

Columbia Professor James Hansen, known as the “father of climate change awareness”, told the Guardian in 2015 that the talks that culminated in a deal at COP21 were just “worthless words”. Speaking as the final draft of the deal was published, Hansen said: “It’s just b******t for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.” Hansen has never been an irrational alarmist and his record of climate change prediction to date has been remarkably good.

With no sanctions and no carbon pricing agreed upon in Paris, is it realistic to assume that the world, with total primary energy consumption more than 80 percent dependent on fossil fuels in 2020, will restructure our societies and infrastructures in time to prevent CO2 atmospheric concentrations from passing the possible “tipping point” of 450 parts per million (ppm)? At the time of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, concentrations were about 367 ppm. They have now passed 400 ppm and continue to rise.

As the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), I introduced Sustainable Development (SD) to the group’s work program in 1997 and created the OECD Round Table on SD that same year. While SD embraces a wide range of environmental, social and governance objectives (often referred to as Environmental, Social and Governance, or ESG), all SD is only possible within a healthy biosphere that enhances and protects the world’s natural capital composed of the air, the water, the soil and the biodiversity of our millions of viable cohabitants.  I did so because the 1972 UN meeting in Stockholm, the Brundtland UN report “Our Common Future”, the RIO Earth Summit in 1992 where the UNFCCC was created, plus the regular IPCC reports pointed to a climate change crisis in the near future.

Many argue that it is still not too late to embark upon ambitious environmental programs to ensure that GHGs decline before CO2 accumulations in the atmosphere exceed 450 ppm. This is the level the scientific consensus tells us will keep global mean temperatures from increasing above pre-industrial levels by more than 2° C with concomitant disastrous climate change far outstripping our global capacity to reduce fossil fuel emissions or adapt to a very different world. It is too late unless COP26 is courageous enough to introduce new technologies with have yet to be rigorously tested.

No alternative – no Plan B

Where is Plan B? There is none. We are simply re-embarking on the well-trodden path of consistent failure. Perhaps as a last resort, atmospheric geoengineering known as Solar Radiation Management (SRM) will be considered, at least at an experimental level to determine whether we might have a useful fire extinguisher at hand when there is a consensus that rising above 2 degrees C is inevitable.

The challenge is that, based on the last few decades of trying to come to grips with GW&CC by a few brave countries (e.g. consider Germany’s extraordinary increase to 44 percent wind- and solar-generated renewable electricity-generating capacity by the end of 2015, that still only provides about 8 percent of Germany’s total primary energy consumption), none of our alternative solution technologies, as presently configured, is capable of being scaled-up to make a significant dent in the overwhelming use of inexpensive and very convenient fossil fuels (gas, oil and coal).  As strongly emphasized by the US-EIA in its May 2016 report, the massive growth of population in the developing countries, and their fast-rising standards of living and expectations are forecast to sustain the use of fossil fuels globally at very high levels for decades.

As these projections were made since the Paris COP21 targets, how can one not be skeptical about keeping CO2 accumulations below 450 ppm? In the absence of herculean efforts of unprecedented research and development to find “breakthrough” solutions/alternatives, and extraordinary global cooperation and coordination, it is too late. The process under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has delivered agreements, but only minimal results. COP21 in Paris has maintained that dismal record of underachievement.

John Maynard Keynes suggested that the master economist should examine the present in light of the past for the purposes of the future. So should we in looking at our history of fighting climate change. Some engaged in the climate change debate are surprised to learn that science has known of the characteristics of CO2 and its greenhouse effect on our planet for more than a century. What have we done about it?

As early as 1896, a Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius (Nobel Prize for chemistry, 1903) identified the warming effects of the CO2 emitted by burning coal. Alarm bells rang at the Stockholm UN Environmental Conference in 1972 — more than 40 years ago. Concern was expressed about emissions, but their measurement and impact were not yet broadly understood until the UN creation of the IPCC in 1988.

Those alarm bells grew louder after the UN Brundtland Report Our Common Future in 1987, helped to spur action with the Montreal Protocol on GHGs reached in 1987 and implemented in 1989, and mobilized political will at the UN Rio Earth Conference in 1992, where the climate change convention was adopted.

The UN General Assembly in Special Session met in New York in 1997, where we listened to statements from world leaders and others (including me) about the importance of reducing emissions. That meeting was followed by the UN Kyoto conference, where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted.

It was agreed that Annex 1 countries (37 developed) would reduce their emissions during two commitment periods on average by 5.2 per cent below their respective 1990 levels. Canada’s commitment was a six percent decrease by 2012 compared to 1990. By 2008, Canada’s emissions had increased by 24.1 per cent over 1990 and Canada withdrew from the protocol.

We have witnessed governments across the globe tailor their policies to their short-term political imperatives rather than to long-term challenges such as climate change.

For many years, we witnessed a parade of alternative energy advocates producing “possible” scenarios for reducing GHG emissions. Wind, solar, energy efficiency, tidal, geothermal and others make up that list. All great ideas, but they ignored the technical, political and economic challenges of their effective integration and weaning ourselves and our economies away from fossil fuels while meeting the world’s energy requirements in light of the short time for action. To say those challenges are daunting would be a great understatement. In 2020, total world wind and solar energy consumption amounted to less than four percent of global primary energy consumption.

The present policy paralysis illustrates our incapacity to come to grips with global warming and its impact on climate change despite the human and economic toll of the weather aberrations we witness on a daily basis.

Hopefully, as the realization takes hold that the 450 ppm threshold will be passed, an international consensus will emerge and adaptation measures will be brought forward to address some of the most damaging early consequences. If nuclear continues to be rejected as a global solution, then in the absence of some yet to be discovered “breakthrough” technological developments, a Plan B must also examine solar radiation management (SRM or atmospheric geoengineering) and perhaps a broader utilization of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

There are now calls from serious sources to a least engage in testing SRM to determine whether it could serve as a lifeboat of last resort. Serious environmentalists like Bill Gates and Richard Branson are apparently interested in climate engineering, or geoengineering. Some experts, such as Canadian Professor David Keith at Harvard, Granger Morgan and Ken Caldeira at Carnegie Mellon and others are striving to determine whether SRM could be a potential lifeboat should the failure to arrest and reduce CO2 emissions continue, as it has for decades.

A non-technical explanation SRM might be simply the following. By spreading aerosols with reflective particles in the atmosphere one could alter the albedo, i.e. the reflective capacity of the earth, thereby lessening the amount of radiation that penetrates to the earth’s surface, and as a result, lessen the heat that is trapped under the CO2 blanket. The measured reduction in the earth’s temperature resulting from the spread of volcanic ash after eruptions suggests that this would be effective and relatively inexpensive. It would not be a permanent answer and would have to be renewed periodically. The concept is well explained in a recent book by David Keith, A Case for Climate Engineering, published by MIT.

Unfortunately, there is considerable resistance to the concept, which seems to find two areas of opposition. First, we see the dedicated environmentalists who believe that exploring this technology may detract from mitigation efforts of those seeking to arrest and reduce GHG emissions, especially CO2. Second, there are some fearful of even limited testing, which they claim could result in unintended consequences, and who remain convinced that there will be technological breakthroughs that will make geoengineering of the atmosphere unnecessary. Surely it is irresponsible for this generation not to have a Plan B.

Note this comment from Gates on Keith’s book:

“The negative effects of climate change will disproportionately impact the world’s poor. David Keith’s candid and thoughtful book lays out a compelling argument about the need for serious research on geoengineering and for a robust policy discussion on its possible use”

What better place to have such a robust discussion amongst experts than at COP 26 in Glasgow?

*Under the title “COP26 Glasgow and the Lack of a Plan B” the early version of this text appeared in the Canadian Policy Magazine. Courtesy of the author and publisher.

Honourable Donald J. Johnston PC OC QC Senior Minister in the Canadian Government: President of the Treasury Board; Minister of State for Science and Technology; (under PM P. Trudeau) Minister of State for Economic and Regional Development (cabinet of PM J. Turner). Secretary General of the OECD Paris (1996 – 2006), nomination of Canadian PM Jean Chrétien. The first non-European to occupy this prestigious position, Johnston was elected to a second term in 2001.

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COP-26 Results: High Hopes for Low Temperatures

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Negotiators marking the closing of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which opened in Glasgow, Scotland, on 31 October. The conference sought new global commitments to tackle climate change. UN News/Laura Quiñones

The 26th Conference of the Parties (COP-26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 13, 2021 with delegations from almost 200 countries participating. The strategic goal of the Summit was to sum up the results achieved during six years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Combating deforestation, phasing down of coal and increasing financial support for developing countries are among the successes of COP-26 however it revealed certain disagreements.

Conference of strategic importance

At the opening ceremony of COP-26, Chairman Alok Sharma stated that the decisions made in Glasgow should be more vigorous than those of Paris. In Scotland’s largest city, the parties to the UNFCCC, after several unsuccessful attempts made in previous years, were again trying to hammer out the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement. In addition, the participants were discussing plans for adaptation to the consequences of climate change that can no longer be prevented. The agenda was really demanding.

Ambitious agenda but unfavorable background

There were four issues on the COP-26 agenda. Countries should: 1) submit programs on carbon emissions reduction to net zero by the middle of this century; 2) propose programs to restore affected ecosystems; 3) mobilize finance to achieve all the climate goals; 4) agree on a procedure for reporting on the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

However, a breakthrough was unlikely even before the Summit began. The G-20 meeting that had taken place the day before cast serious doubt on a multilateral climate agreement between the world ’s largest economies. The meeting in Rome resulted in the 20 states failing to reach an agreement on reducing the deadline for achieving zero emissions and abandoning coal-fired power. Although the G-20 states upheld the goal of limiting the temperature rise, some countries avoided making firm commitments on how to keep its growth beyond the threshold of to 1.5°C.

Forest conservation: a step forward

Over 100 world leaders agreed on a declaration on stopping deforestation. The key point of the document was the joint work on stopping and reversing “the loss of forests and land degradation by 2030”. The states plan to increase investments in agriculture, in the conservation and restoration of forests, as well as in support of indigenous communities who are struggling due to deforestation.

This is one of the most significant achievements of COP-26 as among the signatories to the agreement was Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whom environmentalists recently accused in the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity over the deforestation of the Amazon region.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video address to the forum on the protection of forests expressed confidence that the Glasgow Declaration “will undoubtedly serve the goals of the Paris Agreement on reducing carbon dioxide emissions”. He added that Russia, in an effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, relies, among other tools, on the unique resource of its trees, since about 20% of all forests of the world are located in Russia.

Abandoning coal: modest progress

Another meaningful issue on the COP-26 agenda was the abandonment of coal, and certain results were achieved as well. Firstly, major international banks pledged to stop financing coal-fired power plants by the end of 2021. Secondly, 40 countries made a commitment to gradually abandon coal-fired energy – developed countries by 2030, developing by 2040.

At the same time, the Financial Times characterizes the wording of the declaration as vague as it does not set the exact deadline. The document states that the countries should abandon coal by a certain date or as soon as possible after its expiration. In addition, the main users of coal energy – China, India, the US, Australia, Russia have not signed the declaration.

Alexey Kokorin, head of the WWF Russia Climate and Energy Program called the declaration a “conditional agreement”. The countries-signatories allocate certain financial resources to developing states so that they can abandon coal. If Russia had signed the agreement, it would have become a voluntary donor, not a recipient of climate finance.

At the same time, Jamie Peters from the environmental organization Friends of the Earth maintained that the key meaning of this “unimpressive agreement” was that everyone was allowed to continue using coal for many years to come.

Reducing emissions: methane on the agenda for the first time

Back in April 2021 during the virtual Climate Summit Russian President Vladimir Putin designated the reduction of methane as one of the main directions in combating global warming. During COP-26 the leaders held an event dedicated to the methane emissions reductions for the first time in many years. The US and the EU put forward a joint initiative on reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030 which was supported by 105 countries.

China, Russia and India, three out of top five states in methane emissions, did not join the agreement. However, the initiative was supported by Brazil, the country which Climate Watch Data includes in the list of leading methane emitters.

The rationale for Russia not to join the initiative of the Western powers may be economy. In the countries that willingly sign up to the agreement, the share of the oil-and-gas sector is significantly lower than in Russia. According to Igor Makarov, head of the HSE Climate Change Economics Research and Training Laboratory, in Russia methane emissions are linked to both natural gas production and transportation. So, it is challenging for the country to take on such commitments right now.

According to Alexey Kokorin, there is no point in joining this initiative either ideologically (there is no China and India in it) or technically (it is necessary to deal with mine methane, leaks in gas and oil fields, which is more expensive than energy efficiency, energy conservation and forest fire control).

Russia’s position was also shared by some countries from the Anglo-Saxon world. For instance, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out against a concrete deadline for phasing out coal and pointed out that accelerating the reduction of methane emissions by 2030 will result in high costs for farmers engaged in dairy farming and animal husbandry.

Carbon neutrality: commitments without breakthroughs

Among the main topics at COP-26 was carbon neutrality. Even though many leaders spoke of it the goals set vary both in deadlines and in feasibility. Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced that the PRC would strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The Prime Minister of India promised to reduce emissions to zero by 2070, setting a zero target for the country for the first time. Environmentalists called the Indian president’s goals “ambitious”, but the Nature magazine noted that it was probably only about CO2, with other greenhouse gases being out of the plan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, addressing the summit virtually, maintained that carbon neutrality in Russia should be achieved by 2060. The international representative of Greenpeace characterized the goal as not ambitious enough.

Meaning of the final Glasgow Agreement

The stumbling block during the negotiations on the COP-26 final statement was Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. It envisages specific mechanisms for international the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. This is why the states had to prolong the summit till November 13. Additionally, this very article prevented consensus on the text of COP-25 held in December 2019 in Madrid, which resulted in a failure. COPs are far from punctuality. Out of 26 summits, only seven ended on time (on Friday) 14 ended on Saturday and five were held till Sunday.

The final agreement, published late in the evening on November 13, disappointed many parties. The wording of certain points was softened. For instance, instead of “phasing out” coal and other fossil fuels, the participants made an eleventh-hour decision to use “phasing down”. India, the third largest emitter, insisted on this change. Meanwhile, Special Representative of the President of Russia on climate Ruslan Edelgeriev stated that Russia welcomed the result. Nevertheless, the COP-26 final document has certain breakthroughs:

  1. It calls on the countries to strengthen national commitments and by 2022 renew Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to achieve zero emissions and curb global warming within 1,5°C.
  2. The first measure will be combined with an annual political roundtable to consider global progress report and a top-level summit in 2023.
  3. The document contains a pledge to increase financial assistance to poor and developing countries to combat climate change.

The participants of COP-26 touched upon the issue of the global green transition based on four principles: energy efficiency, decarbonization, decentralization and digitalization. Many important statements have been made during COP-26. The countries have promised to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century, significantly reduce the extraction and use of fossil fuels, completely stop the processes of deforestation, allocate considerable funds for the green transition. However, COP-26 also has its disappointments: ambitions of many countries remained weak, mistrust between developed and developing countries increased, and the real reduction of emissions was partially replaced by compensations.

Although the declaration was signed by almost 200 delegations, every point of it sparks disagreement. The Glasgow Agreement will not replace the Paris Agreement. It acts as a rulebook on the implementation of the 2015 Paris commitments. It defines more concrete actions in financing measures to combat climate change, mitigating its consequences and adapting to the ongoing climate changes.

What awaits us in the future?

Climate Action Tracker has published a report that shows that the risks of rising temperatures in the world are even higher. Even with the current goals of emissions reduction, by 2100 the temperature in the world could rise by 2.4 degrees. It means that the strategies announced at COP-26 would not meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Today, the world can only effect the green transition by a gradual replacement of technologies. It is obvious that electricity has been and will remain the main energy source for humanity. But the question is: how to accumulate it more efficiently and more environmentally friendly in the new realities? Hydrogen is recognized as a viable option. At the same time, the issues of green transition and carbon emissions reduction are over politicized and often do not take into account regional peculiarities of the countries. For now, the easiest step to make is to continue focusing on energy conservation and energy efficiency.

Afterwards, it is necessary to reconsider the attitude to the types of energy generation and modernize them according to the environmental agenda. It is important to use technologies that meet economic needs and cause minimal harm to the environment. It means that Russia should rely on three main areas during the energy transition: nuclear power, hydrogen, and natural gas generation.

From our partner RIAC

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Just How Bad Are Airplanes?

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With the COP26 concluded a little over a week ago (November 13), here is something to ponder.  Must we travel as much as we do on airplanes?

A flight from London to San Francisco releases approximately 5.5 tonnes of CO2 per person.  By contrast, an entire year of driving a typical passenger car emits 4.6 metric tonnes.  More than a whole year’s car emissions released in one 11-hour flight.

Aviation is estimated to account for approximately 2.5% of global CO2 emissions.  While this number may not sound significant, if aviation were a country, it would be sixth in the world.  Forecasts estimate that by 2050, approximately 43 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide will be generated by aviation worldwide.  And when the damage from aircraft includes the discharge of other gases and vapor trails in addition to the CO2, the total jumps to 5% of global emissions.

Contrails, the white streaks we see in the sky, are produced when hot exhaust gases come into contact with low-pressure, cold air.  They contain black carbon particles.  Moisture condenses on these to form ice.  Though some contrails only last a few minutes, some join with cirrus clouds and other contrails, and this larger mixture can remain for up to eighteen hours.  This contrail cloud mixture causes an effect known as ‘radiative forcing’.  The balance between heat emitted from the earth and that coming from the sun is altered.  And this causes a change in climate.  Thus, there is a double negative to aircraft – the CO2 emissions, and the radiative forcing effect from the contrails.  

It turns out the damage from contrails can be mitigated by changing flight paths.  Researchers at Imperial College London have found that flight altitude changes of just 2,000 feet could curb the effect.  A study of Japan’s airspace found that changing just 1.7 percent of flights could cut contrail climate forcing by 59%. 

Small changes in flight paths can significantly curb the impact of each flight, and at low cost.  If these changes are implemented throughout the world, the effects could be significant.  

Some airlines are leading the way towards environmental sustainability.  Last winter, Air France KLM Martinair launched the world’s first sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) program to reduce CO2 emissions.  

Then there are innovators devising environmentally friendly small aircraft to one day meet some passengers’ needs.  As a start, the company Pipistrel received EU certification for its electric two-seater plane a little over a year ago.  And Swiss flying school AlpinAirPlanes installed solar panels to recharge them (Engineering and Technology Magazine, Volume 16, Issue 7, August 2021).  

For larger aircraft Rolls-Royce is in the process of developing hydrogen-fuelled engines that are likely to be available by 2035.  They have three concept designs: a turboprop for 100 passengers, a turbofan for 200 passengers, and a futuristic blended-wing body design.  Unfortunately there are many obstacles with hydrogen that lead some experts to believe that hydrogen aircraft are unlikely to be available until 2050  (Engineering and Technology Magazine, Volume 16, Issue 7, August 2021).  Still, they do give us some hope for the future. 

In the short term, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), has been introduced by Air France.  It is a kerosene-like fuel but not derived from fossil sources.  Such biofuels have difficulties of their own.  It takes an enormous amount of crops to produce enough energy for aircraft, and the decision of the best use for those crops – food versus airlines — is certainly not a clear cut one.   SAF is a very good idea but will be slow in transition, and during the next four decades when mitigating emissions is crucial, we must find alternatives. 

Hydrogen or biofuels are the two likely choices for the future, and hydrogen as we know is a long process in development.   In the meantime, while scientists work on improving flying options, what is the best way for us to reduce our carbon footprint, and still travel when we need to?

For domestic travel, high-speed rail proves a good alternative.  The Brussels-London Eurostar launch caused aviation along that route to decrease by 55%.  In other instances high-speed rail has been shown to reduce air transport by as much as 80%.  The International Energy Agency has summarized the direct impact of launching high-speed lines on the corresponding flight paths in a telling chart.  It notes that the Paris-Strasbourg train decreased air travel by over 80%.  The Paris-London and the Seville-Madrid train routes decreased corresponding aviation travel by over 50%, and in China the Taipei-Kaohsiung train decreased flights by 80%.  

Domestic flight travel emissions have increased 17% since 1990 and they continue to grow.  But where high speed rail is present, this is being mitigated.  Building more high-speed trains between common flight destinations could be part of the solution.

Thus connecting major cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago through high-speed rail could significantly reduce carbon emissions.  That, and allowing online meetings to be the modus operandi for the corporate world could together have a real impact.  The pandemic has given us a window of opportunity – a chance to try virtual meetings and to see how they perform.  And they work well. 

There is no simple answer to the problem of carbon emissions; there are many changes that can have a cumulative positive effect.  Here are a few ways to help reduce the climate impact of aircraft — this is by no means an exhaustive list, only a beginning:

1. Use the Cloud, Not the Conference Room

Simply reducing flights when meetings can be conducted online has a huge impact.  The International Civil Aviation Organization has verified that global passenger traffic decreased a huge 60 percent over 2020.  While the pandemic mindset exists, let’s keep the conference room online and make it a permanent fixture.  The cloud is better for the planet, better for families to spend more time together, and better for our pets — no need to be left alone or boarded for that business trip.  

2. Slightly Alter Flight Altitudes

Imperial College London has shown that at a low cost and with only minor flight altitude adjustments, we can reduce damaging radiative forcing that contributes to global warming.  

3. Fund Environmentally Friendly SAF Programs

With airlines struggling as they are today, government funding for SAF research and airplane innovation could help, especially in the long-term. 

4. High-Speed Rail

Our government should build high-speed trains, particularly between commonly used flight paths.  And when we have the option of a high-speed train instead of a jet, we should use it.  Fortunately, the research shows we do.  So it is just a matter of putting some tracks down, starting to build, and fighting the airline lobby. 

All of it will take time; some we can do now.

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Results of the COP-26 conference – An analysis

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COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, photo: UNFCCC/Kiara Worth

The much-discussed COP-26 conference is over. The conference was scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12, but the time was extended by one day as there was no consensus within the stipulated time. In addition, the next 2022 and 2023 COP conferences will be held in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates respectively. The main goal of the UN at the COP-26 conference was to halve carbon emissions by 2030, which would require a 45% reduction in carbon emissions. Moreover, by 2050 emissions will have to be brought to zero percent. The UN’s second goal at the conference was to increase assistance to the poorest countries in the climate crisis, so that they can adapt and spend money to address the damage caused by climate change.

 Climate experts say global temperatures have risen by 0.5 degrees Celsius in recent decades to 1.1 degrees Celsius. Due to this, various natural disasters including floods, tidal surges, cyclones and fires have increased abnormally. The United Nations has said that if the current rate of carbon emissions continues, temperatures will rise to 2.7 degrees Celsius. The increase in the use of fossil fuels is 100% responsible for this, said Associate Director of Oxford University.

 Climate change was pledged 100 billion a year in 2009. It was said that this assistance will be effective by 2020. However, it has been postponed again till 2023, but this promise is not being fully fulfilled. As a result, the poorest countries affected by climate change are being hit hardest. The UN’s IPCC says 100 billion a year in compensation will not benefit poor countries affected by climate change. Now it will take a trillion dollars a year to deal with their losses.

 If the temperature rises by two degrees Celsius, it will cost billions of dollars every year in Africa alone. The IPCC also claims that spending 1.8 trillion over the next decade on sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture and mangrove forest conservation to tackle the climate crisis would avoid 7.2 trillion in losses. On the other hand, scientists say that if tough climate policies are not implemented now, 200 million people a year will need new humanitarian aid by 2050. Which is twice as much as it is now.

 However, three consecutive agreements were drafted at the COP-26, because of disagreements over how to reduce atmospheric altitude. Finally, under the pressure of China and India, the word ‘phase down’ was added instead of ‘phase out’ in the agreement on coal use. More than 200 countries have agreed to an agreement called the Glasgow Climate Pact, which aims to increase climate crisis compensation by 2025 and update each country’s NDCs each year. Now it will take a long time for the UN member states to sign. It is difficult to say now how many countries will sign in the end.

 Meanwhile, the pros and cons of the deal are being discussed around the world. In it, most of the negotiators have expressed a negative attitude, especially people and environmentalists from least developed and developing countries. Young people have called the conference a ‘greenwash’. The chairman of the conference, British Minister Alok Sharma, said, “Fragile victory.” According to the UN president, the agreement only aims at a temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius. “This is an important step, but not enough,” he said. “It’s a big step,” said Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom. US Climate Ambassador John Kerry said Paris had created the field and the Glasgow race had started from there.

 According to experts, the decision taken at the Glasgow Conference, if implemented properly, will prevent the rise in atmospheric altitude even if it does not decrease to the desired level, which is beneficial for the world. But there is no guarantee that the agreement will be fully implemented, as evidenced by the Paris Agreement. The agreement was not fully implemented. As a result, the world has to pay its ultimate compensation. The same could be said of the Glasgow Agreement. Needless to say, the agreement is a beacon of hope, on the basis of which we can move forward.

 Apart from the COP-26 agreement, there are a number of commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Such as: stop using coal, protect forests, reduce methane gas, build climate tolerant and low carbon emissions healthcare systems, stop building fossil fuel based vehicles, net zero etc. In addition, Scotland has initiated funding (1.4 million) to fund climate change issues. The biggest surprise of the COP-26 conference is the announcement by the US and China to work together to tackle the climate crisis.

 The unexpected announcement said the two countries would work together to keep atmospheric temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius within this decade. The United Nations and the European Union have called the announcement a “very urgent and encouraging step.” Then there are India, Russia and the EU. Now, if they join the Sino-US initiative, carbon emissions will be much lower.

 Furthermore, 190 countries and organizations have pledged to stop using coal. Many countries and organizations have announced to stop financing the coal sector. If this promise is implemented, the amount of carbon emissions will be greatly reduced. So it is conceivable that the rest of the world will follow suit. And if that is the case then the great sacrifice of renewable energy will start worldwide. The use of nuclear power to meet the demand for electricity will also increase a lot. 124 countries have pledged to stop deforestation.

 One of the ways to save the planet is to get the necessary forest cover and 25% forest cover, which all countries have to create, and it has to be fruit, herbal and forest based. Planting fruit trees will meet the nutritional needs. Besides, the demand for wood for furniture will also be met. Also, if medicinal plants are planted, the demand for medicine will be met. Therefore, in the case of tree planting, all these must be given importance. Tall and strong trees to deal with storms, floods, tidal surges and salinity should be planted in coastal areas and drought tolerant trees should be planted in desert areas. With this, all-round measures have to be taken to protect the forest. Otherwise, the forest hunters will destroy the forest as it is now if they get a chance.

 There will be huge employment in the creation of forests. Social forests are very helpful in alleviating poverty. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government and the society as well as the individual to create and protect the necessary forests in a planned manner. In collaboration with the World Health Organization, 50 countries have pledged to build climate-tolerant and low-carbon health care systems. If it is implemented, people will benefit a lot. 90 countries have pledged to provide private funding to achieve net zero. If it is implemented, the environment will improve a lot.

 At the COP-26 conference, hundreds of countries pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. It did not say how it would be done. According to a recent research report, agriculture is responsible for 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to methane gas. Agriculture and livestock together produce about 40% methane. Cows emit the most methane among cattle. A cow releases about 220 pounds of methane a year. According to the United Nations, the tendency to consume beef and milk will increase by 70% in the next few years. The number of cows will also increase.

 As a result, methane will be emitted at a proportional rate. So global warming will increase further, but there is no reason to worry. This is because Jelp in the UK and Cargill in the US have created a special cow mask to protect cows from methane. Although like a mask, it is actually a device that is attached to the cow’s nose. The device filters the methane emitted in a special process and converts it into carbon dioxide.

 So now it is necessary to make arrangements for all the cows to wear masks. Then the amount of methane gas will decrease. Experts are talking about changing diets to reduce carbon emissions. Every year, 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases are emitted for animal feed. Scientists are of the opinion that it is possible to reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere by increasing the speed of carbon storage at the bottom of the ocean.

 According to the British government, during the COP-26 summit, six of the world’s leading car manufacturers (Volvo, Ford Motors, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, BYD and Land Rover) announced that they would stop making fossil fuel-based vehicles by 2040. This did not include Toyota, Volkswagen AG, Stellantis, Honda, Nissan, BMW and Hyundai. But there is no way to make the world carbon-free without their involvement. Because, different countries have already banned the use of fuel based vehicles. By 2030, most countries will do the same. According to the IAA, the transportation sector is responsible for 25% of global carbon emissions.

 Road vehicles are most responsible for this. Bill Gates, in an article published based on his experience of attending the COP-26 conference and surrounding issues, said that by 2050, the world will have to emit zero carbon. Achieving this will require a green industrial revolution, where we will de-carbonate virtually the entire physical economy. This will include making things, generating electricity, moving around, producing food and heating and cooling buildings. However, this will require extensive innovation. Emphasis should be placed on innovation of environment friendly technology.

 However, the earth must be saved.  Human, fauna and biodiversity must be protected. Therefore, the agreements and commitments of the COP-26 conference must be fully implemented to limit the altitude of the atmosphere to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030. This is the responsibility of all the people and countries of the world. However, the greatest responsibility lies with the rich. Because, they have the main responsibility for increasing the height of the atmosphere. They emit 30 times more carbon emissions than the poor. So they have a greater responsibility to reduce carbon emissions. The rich must help 134 poor and developing countries to implement the Green Revolution, because they can’t afford that.

 The main responsibility in this case lies with the World Bank, IMF and international financial institutions. Otherwise the green revolution of the countries will not succeed. As a result, the loss of carbon emissions will continue. Needless to say, it should not be based on rich countries alone. Poor and developing countries should also try their best.

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