Climate conference: ‘between hope and lack of real ambition’
Greenhouse gases are not decreasing, on the contrary. CO2 is to increase 2,7% compared to 2017. Still, some climatologists are hopeful. Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Ryndall Centre for Climate Research, and her colleagues, and former United Nations climate leading lady, Christina Figueres, see three reasons to be optimistic.
1. Most important technology is on schedule
“One of the reasons for being optimistic is that the world is evolving to a clean, cheap and reliable energy system”, the above-mentioned ladies write in Nature Communications, a specialist journal. Costs of solar energy decreased the last ten years with 80%. Morocco, Egypt and Mexico are producing solar energy for 3 dollar cent per kWh, which is cheaper than gas.
Half of new energy installations are using renewable energy, in developing countries even the majority. At that pace, half of all electricity will come from renewable energy by 2030.
In the US a record number of coal power stations are closing, costs of battery technology go down and the number of electric cars is growing. Even the heavy industry can be carbon-neutral by 2050.
2. States, cities and companies are taking environmentally friendly initiatives
Although the US (and maybe Brazil and Australia too) are stepping out the Paris Climate Agreement, nineteen countries see their emissions go down while their economy is growing.
Besides, there are a lot of ‘smaller’ initiatives and excellent results: more than 100 members of the climate union of states and regions score emission results that are much better than the national ones.
3. Climate goals are forced up
Goal of the Paris Climate Agreement is to keep global warming under 1,5 or 2 degrees, but there are no specific emission goals. Every country is free to submit its own nationally determined commitment, which doesn’t seem to be a winning formula.
Still, Figueres and co see some hopeful evolution. China, India and Europe, good for 40% of emissions, are doing better than what they promised, and 22 countries have said to tighten up their commitment.
As to emissions, the situation is not so good, the climatologists conclude. “The fourth industrial evolution is unstoppable, it’s time now to accelerate momentum. Big players, like China, India and Europe, can do a lot more. What seemed radical three years ago, appears to be smart and profitable now.”
Lack of ambition
Other sources are far less optimistic, though. According to a yearly report published on Wednesday in the margin of the 24th climate conference of the UN, CO2 emissions caused by the industry and the combustion of carbon, petrol and gas will increase 2,7% compared to 2017, after having gone up with 1,6% the year before.
“We have to go back to 2011 and the outbreak of the financial crisis to find worse results”, explains Glen Peters, climatologist of the Research Centre, Cicero, in Oslo (Norway), and co-author of the study in the magazine Open Access Earth System Science Data.
“We’re far from the way to keep global warming under 1,5 or 2 degrees, the Paris Climate Agreements’ objective. There’s a real lack of ambition.”
Aviation: +27% in 10 years
The increase this year is mainly caused by the emission boom in China (+4,7%), the largest emitter in the world, although results of the previous years were encouraging.
Second largest emitter, the United States, show an increase of 2,5%, not particularly due to Trump’s anti-climate politics, but rather to the latest extreme winter and summer period, with an excessive use of heating and airco.
In India emissions grew with +6,5%, while Europe has the only decreasing result: -0,7%.
The use of natural gas went up with 2% per year worldwide, of which +8,4% in China. Fuel consumption grew ‘thanks’ to transport. The number of cars went up 4%, most of them still with combustion engines. Not to mention the fuel used in aviation: +27% in hardly ten years.
“Even when there is some progress made with clean energy and electric vehicles, the results are far too weak to mean a real step forward” Glen Peters concludes.
The climate conference, which is held in Katowice til 14th of December, until now has been the occasion for repeated calls from the UN and the most vulnerable countries to accelerate the reduction of emissions but, unfortunately, there is hardly any strong commitment.
Participants are invited to set up a global ambition, which could be a declaration of a group of countries.