This month nearly all countries participating in the Paris Agreement are set to miss the February 9th deadline aimed to strengthen plans to fight climate change despite the United Nations warning that action is vital in 2020 to avert runaway global warming. In 2015, the Paris Agreement stated that one of the fundamental components was raising global ambition towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years, however, so far only three countries have upgraded their climate plans nine months before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
It states in the UN decision to implement the Paris Agreement, that climate action plans such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC’s) must be submitted to the UN at least nine months before the start of the summit, and these NDC’s are crucial in defining national policies for the next 5-10 years. The lack of countries that have upgraded their climate plans in addition to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson firing Claire O’Neill, who was set to speak at the start of the summit in Glasgow, has contributed immensely to uncertainties already in place.
While the Marshall Islands, Suriname, and Norway have submitted their NDC’s before the February deadline, it is disappointing nonetheless that no other country was able to have upgraded climate plans in a timely manner. Now, approximately 107 countries have stated that they will greatly enhance their NDC’s by the end of 2020 and these countries will account for 15.1% of global greenhouse emissions. It is a step in the right direction, but much more action will be necessary in order to be on track for the Paris Agreement.
A jarring start to the new year follows as for the first time in history, environmental concerns dominated the top five long term global risks for business leaders, investors, and policy makers. It has been recognized this month that one of the biggest risks to the global economy are extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and human made environmental disasters, all consequences of climate change.
To give an example, short-term heatwaves and the destruction of natural ecosystems were both ranked third and fourth respectively as risks most likely to rise in 2020, ahead of risks such as data fraud, cyberattacks, water crisis, global governance failure, and asset bubbles. This paints a good picture of the risk we are facing as a society due to climate change. Hopefully this will be addressed at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos later this month.
The main focus of the World Economic Forum in Davos is to begin to seek ways to build political and societal cohesion in order to help drive a collective global response to extremely pressing issues such as climate change. It certainly is no time for the world to divide in a time where dire action is needed. Donald Trump who pulled out of the Paris Agreement, Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, and Greta Thunberg are all notable people said to be attending this event later this month and it will be interesting to see what kinds of progress will be made in Davos.
After one of the longest climate conferences in history, Cop25, there is severe concern about the significant gap between the goals of countries in terms of their climate proposals, and what scientists say will truly stop the planet from warming further. While the Chilean presidency of the Madrid talk had made the term “ambition” an extremely central component of Cop25, the text that was drafted in the meeting still lacked a clear time frame as to when countries should be effectively stepping up on their proposals and policies.
The texts directly state that it “urges those parties whose intended nationally determined contribution pursuant to [make a] decision that contains a time frame up to 2025 to communicate by 2020 a new nationally determined contribution” (Decision CP.21). Additionally, it stated that they “request those parties whose intended nationally determined contribution pursuant to [make a] decision contains a time frame up to 2030 to communicate or update by 2020 a new nationally determined contribution) (Decision CP.21). This clearly is an extremely wide time frame that gives little to no instruction or periodic deadlines to measure progress for countries on their NDC’s. This raises serious concern if this is what the definition of ambition we are going by is. Essentially this text is saying to countries that they are not requiring, or expecting, countries to raise their targets until 2025, something that will be extremely dangerous to society if no action is done until then.