Published On: Fri, Oct 29th, 2021

COP26: Pope Advocates Radical Action, Climate Scientists Advise Urgent Reduction in Greenhouse Gases

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By Janet Ekstract

ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Several days ahead of the G20 and COP26 climate conference, Pope Francis commented that humanity needs to take “radical” action in combating the global climate crisis and a host of other global crises. In a statement to BBC news, he said humanity must abandon isolationism and work together to provide what he described as “concrete hope” to future generations. The Pope on a BBC radio broadcast, stated: “We find ourselves increasingly frail and even fearful, caught up in a succession of crises in the areas of health care, the environment, food supplies and the economy, to say nothing of social, humanitarian and ethical crises.” The pontiff added: “All these crises are profoundly interconnected. They also forecast a perfect storm that could rupture the bonds holding our society together. … These crises present us with the need to take decisions, radical decisions that are not always easy. At the same time, moments of difficulty like these also present opportunities, opportunities that we must not waste.”

Meanwhile, the city of Glasgow, Scotland has intensified its preparations ahead of COP26 set to begin on October 31. The UN climate change summit expects at least 30,000 attendees with more than 120 world leaders attending as well at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC9). High hopes are riding on decisions that will be made at the conference and policymakers are under extreme pressure to negotiate a path that will extricate the world out of a worst possible climate scenario.

Even though the climate change conference is primarily focused on political negotiations, climate scientists weighed in on what they view needs to happen. The first priority they said is to immediately reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and fast. In 2015 at COP21, most countries agreed to keep global warming below 2C above pre-industrial levels with the main goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5C. A report released in 2018, indicated that maintaining a temperature increase at 1.5C rather than 2C will keep millions from the effects of extreme heat and sea-level rise, and can stop tropical coral reefs from disappearing completely. Climate scientists report that countries’ current climate plans known as “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) aren’t enough to limit global warming to 1.5C.

The most recent UN assessment revealed that countries’ most recent pledges would reduce CO2 emissions by just 7.5 percent by 2030 when compared to previous commitments. For the planet to limit the temperature rise to 1.5C, a reduction of 55 percent would be needed. A climate scientist from Imperial College in London, Dr. Joeri Rogeli who contributed to the report and to a host of other UN assessments, commented that COP26 must produce a “decisive step” forward in countries’ efforts to reduce their emissions. He added: “COP26 needs to deliver strengthened NDCs and long-term emissions-reduction strategies by all countries,” Rogeli told the British newspaper The Independent.

Climate scientists agree that though many of the new NDCs countries’ have advanced on their earlier goals – they still are not enough to make a difference. As UN chief Antonio Guterres reiterated in his recent remarks on the climate crisis – both the U.S. and China are the biggest emitters and need to do a whole lot more on their commitments to getting closer to the target of 1.5C. The largest emitters of greenhouse gases include the U.S., Canada, China, South Korea and Japan who recently announced their goals for getting to carbon neutral. Other large emitters such as Russia, Mexico and India need to step up their efforts as well in order for COP26 to be a success, climate scientists agree.

COP26 will test the limits of the Paris Agreement’s “ratchet mechanism,” experts say.  It was agreed at COP21 in 2015 that countries would keep “ratcheting” up their ambition by submitting more stringent climate plans every five years. Experts say the summit that was originally planned for 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic is an opportunity to see whether the mechanism is working.  As UN Secretary-General Guterres relayed, he is worried that COP26 will end in failure but he reiterated that he was also hopeful that countries will step up to the challenge.

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