Greenhouse gas emissions increase poses serious threat, warns activist group

2018-12-20 05:29

World governments at the UN climate talks in Poland failed to respond adequately to the climate crisis, which would have serious consequences, particularly for Africa, according to 350Africa.org.

The regional branch of the global climate activist organisation echoed what many NGOs and experts have said about the outcome of the UN’s COP24 climate negotiations: not enough concrete action to cap global warming at 1.5°C.

Glen Tyler from 350Africa.org in Cape Town said the pace of global negotiations was simply too slow to make any real difference to reducing the impacts of global climate change.

"The negotiations did put together a rule book on how to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015, but it is so full of holes it is like Swiss cheese. It is just the barest minimum," Tyler said.

The Paris Agreement rule book contains details of how governments will measure and report on their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

'Catastrophic effect on people'

According to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis group, the commitments governments have made to cut greenhouse gas emissions so far are so low that even if they achieved these targets, the world would most likely reach 3°C warming – twice as much as the 1.5°C limit they agreed to in Paris. 

"And the science says that an average global increase of 3°C could double to 6°C for Africa. That would have a catastrophic effect on people, agriculture, the economy – never mind the oceans and the rest of biodiversity," Tyler said.

Harald Winkler, director of UCT’s Energy Research Centre, believes although the Paris rule book that emerged from the Cop24 talks is not perfect, it represents a "considerable step forward in a highly uncertain political context".

"Most of the Paris rule book was agreed. The rules provide some rigour, in that upfront information is made more mandatory, and the framework to enhance transparency is detailed," Winkler said.

Another positive step was the "global stock-take" mechanism whereby countries would assess every five years how much more each country needed to cut emissions, based on science and equity considerations.

Winkler said both accountability and transparency had been strengthened. Developed countries would have to provide information on financial help to developing countries. A committee would be able to "open a dialogue" with any country that persistently failed to submit contributions and reports.

"Overall, the challenge will be to implement the rules and strengthen them over time," Winkler said.

'Same bad ideas'

A big sticking point in the negotiations was the acceptance of the crucial 1.5°C report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – commissioned by the UN at the 2015 Paris climate talks – in which scientists provided evidence of the serious impacts the world would experience if the rise in the average global temperature exceeded 1.5°C.

The report said the world would have to shift away from fossil fuels rapidly if it wanted to cap global warming at 1.5°C.

The oil-exporting countries of Russia, the US, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia blocked a move to endorse the IPCC report at the UN talks. After heated discussions, in the end the negotiations simply welcomed the "timely completion" of the IPCC report.

Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, tweeted his fears: "My biggest concern is that the UN talks failed to align ambitions with science. We continue to follow a path that will take us to a very dangerous 3-4°C warmer world within this century. Extreme weather events hit people across the planet already, at only 1°C of warming."

Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who made world headlines in August when she went on a school strike until September, demanding that Sweden cut carbon emissions, said in an address to the COP24 plenary that the world could not solve a crisis without treating it like a crisis.

"You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children," Thunberg said.

After September, Thumberg continued her school strike but only on Fridays, which sparked similar school strikes around the world.

Speaking on behalf of Climate Justice Now, she told delegates: "We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system."

Read more on:    un  |  climate change
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