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COP28 pledges not enough to limit warming to 1.5C

Many observers say energy efficiency improvements and proposed cuts to methane emissions aren’t ambitious enough

by Jessica Maudlin, Presbyterian Hunger Program | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Hugh Whyte via Unsplash

A draft  of the new commitments out of COP28 climate summit will not be enough on their own to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as the UN climate conference in Dubai headed into the final phase this week.

So far, 130 countries have agreed to triple renewables and double the rate of energy efficiency improvements, while 50 oil and gas companies have agreed to cut out methane emissions, but those agreements to many observers aren’t ambitious enough. They would achieve one-third of the emissions gap that needs to be closed in the next six years to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Why 1.5 matters

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment from March 2023 shared a powerful global warming data visualization, illustrating how future warming depends on various emissions scenarios, and shows how climate change already affects — and is poised to alter — the lives of generations born in 1950, 1980, and 2020.The IPCC report contained stark findings, including that the world is way off track in limiting the severity of global warming; but there’s still time to rein in emissions from fossil fuels, land use change and other sources.

For the 1950s group, much of the climate change they have experienced has occurred since the 1970s, when the fingerprints of greenhouse gases became more pronounced. Those born in 1980 have already seen large and rapid shifts in climate and will be 70 years old during the middle of the century, which is the timeframe for when nations’ emissions are supposed to hit net zero.  People born in 2020, however, could see a world that warms dramatically more than it has so far if emissions remain high.

2023 has been full of climate related disasters, in both the global north and the global south, and climate scientists have delivered fresh and concerning research, indicating that bold and drastic decisions at COP28 are needed to manage the climate crisis.

Mattias Söderberg, co-chair of the ACT Alliance Climate Justice Group, speaking on behalf of ACT Alliance, urged all the parties to come to consensus on a final decision at this COP that incorporates strong climate justice, clear indicators on the Global Goal for Adaptation, a full phase-out of fossil fuels that includes a just transition, and adequate new and additional climate finance — in the form of grants, not loans — to meet the needs of countries and communities in the global south, who face the brunt of the impacts of climate change already.

The U.N.’s climate body on Monday published its latest draft text of the deal it hopes to reach at the COP28 summit in Dubai, which includes a range of actions countries could take to reduce emissions.

The list did not refer directly to a phase out of fossil fuels, which was a key demand by the European Union as well as many developing countries that are especially vulnerable to climate change.  A phase-out of all fossil fuels is urgently required in order to keep global temperature rise to 1.5C. But as necessary as this phase-out is, a failure to do so without appropriate measures to create alternative employment and to ensure access to renewable energy for all through a just transition will have devastating impacts on growth and development around the world.

Faith leaders continue to add their voices to echo the alarm that the climate crisis cannot be addressed without clear goals. COP28 should present global targets for action, and guide governments, politicians and organizations when they invest in ensuring that their efforts have impact, faith leaders said. And they aren’t alone. More than 800 leaders from the worlds of business, finance and politics, plus scientists, health professionals, indigenous peoples and faith leaders, including the CEOs of more than 300 companies, have published a call for a 1.5C-aligned outcome at the end of the summit “because later is too late.”

Mary Robinson, the former Irish president who was also the UN envoy for climate change,  told The Guardian newspaper that “Those at the negotiating table at Cop28 are steering the course of our shared future: their success or failure will resonate for generations. I fear Cop28 is falling short of what is required to stay within the 1.5C warming threshold. There are countries here with the capacity to ensure the outcome of this summit is historic for the right reasons. They need to lean in now with ambition and urgency.

“Cop28 presents an opportunity for leaders to be on the right side of history. Nations obstructing a livable future must abandon their subterfuge. The nations thwarting progress are those with the greatest stakes in fossil fuels but also the most plentiful resources to act. … There is still time for these countries to step up with the courageous leadership required to tackle this existential threat.”

The PC(USA) is a member of the ACT Alliance. Jessica Maudlin is the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns. This article originally appeared here.

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