COP déjà-vu - Spherics' Rebecca Burgess reviews COP26

by the Spherics Team
by
Rebecca Burgess
22
November
2021

Unless you’ve been in hibernation over recent months, you will undoubtedly have witnessed the flurry of climate related news, resulting from the UK hosting the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) this November. 

On the official COP26 UK website the event is described as “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control.” Even the United Nations (UN) said “2021 is a make or break year to confront the global climate emergency”.

So, did the event save us from climate catastrophe? Does all life on this planet have a chance at surviving? After nearly three decades of COPs, bringing almost every country on earth together to agree solutions for the survival of our planet, you’d hope so wouldn’t you? 

Projected warming of 2.4°C is not good enough

Devastatingly, the short and simple answer is no. The #1 goal world leaders needed to achieve was to keep the hope of holding temperature rises to 1.5°C degrees alive. Yet, the commitments made, are projected to result in warming of 2.4°C by the end of the century (and even this rise is far from certain). 

2.4°C degrees means the global loss of life. It means catastrophic consequences for nature and humankind globally. Large-scale food crises, water scarcity, mass flooding, uncontrollable fires, and intolerable heat. All of this will increasingly make areas across the planet unlivable. Most agonising of all, it will be felt most brutally by those who have not been responsible for the rise in temperature; the Global South. An analysis published in The Lancet: Planetary Health finds the Global North is responsible for 92% of all excess global carbon emissions.(1)

Eyes now on Sharm EL Sheikh, Egypt for COP27…

We’re now being told that to keep 1.5°C within reach, governments need to return to the table with significantly enhanced offers ahead of COP27, which will take place at Sharm ElSheikh, Egypt, in 2022. Yet, is anyone else feeling a weird sense of deja-vu? After the talks in 2019’s COP25 conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “disappointed” with the results, adding: “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.” So, why are we yet again looking to the next COP to save the day? We seem to be in a nightmare-ish time loop of inaction. 

What do world leaders not understand about “best last chance”? Even an interim report published by the UN in February this year, described our planet as being on “red alert”.(2) When will our world leaders, and I should add, many of us, wake up and realise time is not our friend? 

Time is in fact our enemy

We cannot rely on tomorrow to save us. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2 °C of warming.(3) Scientists generally agree that the earth has warmed by about 1°C since 1800. We are literally hanging off the cliff edge. A study released last year in the journal Scientific Reports, makes the bold (and I should say contested) claim that we could “already [be] past a point of no return for global warming”.(4)

"What was announced [at COP26] seemed to come from a parallel dimension where we have decades to address the climate emergency, at a comfortable pace which presents no threat to the status quo.”

Duncan Oswald - Head of Climate Science - Spherics

We should feel angry

It’s no surprise therefore that Alok Sharma, COP26 President, was left in tears at the end of the conference. We should all be in tears. We should all feel angry. Devastated. Confused. Worried. [Insert your emotion/s here]. We should be in global mourning, for the loss that we’re about to be part of and already witnessing. 

Only when we process this grief, will we be able to mobilise effectively towards salvaging what we can. Only then, can we focus on what power we have to contribute to this emergency. We cannot rely on our world leaders to save our planet, the gap between net-zero rhetoric and actual policy widens. All eyes must now look towards businesses to provide hope. Business leaders must now implement the change we need to see.  

Some good news

The good news is the science is clear. To limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, we must cut global emission by 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels.(5) Businesses must develop comprehensive, effective and genuine net zero plans to reduce their emissions, and urgently. Importantly, these plans must be based on actual data, across all three scopes.

Today, we must all act. 



References

(1) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30196-0/fulltext

(2) https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20604.doc.htm

(3) IPCC. IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (IPCC, 2019).

(4) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-75481-z

(5) https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

About Spherics

Spherics is an award winning carbon accounting software helping businesses measure and reduce their carbon emissions, in minutes, from as little as £9pm. 

We have two solutions, one for SMEs and one for larger enterprise businesses looking to better understand their supply chain carbon footprint / scope 3 carbon emmissions.

For information on our SME carbon accounting software click here.

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