COP26 Live Updates: Glasgow Climate Summit enters recent days

PictureDelegates and the media see Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom during his opening speech at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Credit…Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

The UN climate agency on Wednesday released a draft agreement urging countries to “reconsider and strengthen” next year their plans to reduce planetary greenhouse gas emissions.

The document marks an initial agreement between about 200 nations that will be used as a template to conclude an agreement as the two-week global climate summit in Glasgow nears its end on Friday.

In addition to urging countries to set more aggressive targets to reduce emissions, it urges nations to “accelerate the phasing out” of coal and stop subsidizing other oil and gas. It also asks them to set policies to stop adding greenhouse gases “by or around the middle of the century” to help keep global warming at a relatively safe level.

Nevertheless, a lack of fixed deadlines and enforcement mechanisms in the document pointed to the upcoming obstacles, as negotiators try to reach agreement at the summit known as COP26, where a primary goal is to agree on stronger action to keep the average global temperature rise at 1, 5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to pre-industrial levels.

Beyond this threshold, scientists say, the likelihood of deadly heat waves, droughts, forest fires, floods and species extinctions is rising sharply. The planet has already been warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius.

David Waskow at the World Resources Institute, a think tank in Washington, said the draft lacks a “clear sense” that limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is a global goal and that the language urging countries to sharpen their emissions targets is vague and non-committal. .

Yet he called it a positive step that is “very much in line” with the commitments that vulnerable nations have sought from highly polluting countries.

The United States under President Biden has promised to reduce emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. China, the world’s biggest climate polluter, has said its emissions will peak before 2030, and Russia has given a vague promise to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2060 – but analysts say both countries’ targets are insufficient to get the planet on 1.5 degree trajectory.

On Tuesday, UN scientists released a report showing that under the countries’ current promises to reduce emissions, the Earth is about to heat around 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), a whole degree beyond the target outlined in the draft.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson, whose nation is hosting the summit, was expected to appear in Glasgow on Wednesday to urge ministers and negotiators to seize the moment and draw up a final, ambitious agreement.

“Negotiation teams are doing hard in these last days of COP26 to translate promises into action on climate change,” Mr Johnson said before arriving. “This is bigger than any country, and it’s time for nations to put differences aside and come together for our planet and our people.”

He will be joined by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who warned at the start of the conference that the world “is content with a climate catastrophe.”

The Glasgow conference began with hopes of building on the agreement reached in Paris in 2015, the first time almost all countries on the planet committed to lowering planetary warming greenhouse gas emissions to help avert the most severe effects of climate change.

The draft document, released on Wednesday, calls on nations to “re-examine and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally determined contribution, as necessary to adapt to the temperature targets of the Paris Agreement by the end of 2022.”

While urging countries to phase out coal and fossil fuels, it provides no fixed schedules. And it calls on rich countries to “quickly scale up their supply of climate finance” to help developing countries adapt to global warming without setting targets or enforcement mechanisms.

Tensions have flared up over what kind of financial assistance richer countries should give the poorer to deal with the rising damage from heat waves, floods, droughts and storms. And while there is broad agreement that most nations are not reducing their greenhouse gas emissions fast enough, there is far less consensus on how to get deeper reductions.

Traditionally, a final agreement requires all parties to sign. If a country objects, negotiations can stall. And each country has its own set of often competing interests. Small island states like the Maldives, which face an imminent threat from rising seas, want all countries to cut emissions as quickly as possible. Oil producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia note that they are eager to phase out fossil fuels quickly. And large developing countries like India are holding out for more help in switching to cleaner energy.

Credit…Pool photo by Daniel Kim

At least six major automakers – including Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Volvo – and 31 national governments pledged on Wednesday to work toward phasing out sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 worldwide and by 2035 in “leading markets.”

But some of the world’s largest carmakers, including Toyota, Volkswagen and the Nissan-Renault alliance, did not agree to the promise, which is not legally binding. And the governments of the United States, China and Japan, three of the largest car markets, also abstained.

The announcement, made during COP26’s global climate negotiations in Glasgow, was hailed by climate advocates as another sign that the days of the internal combustion engine could soon be numbered. Electric vehicles continue to set new global sales records every year, and major car companies have recently begun investing tens of billions of dollars to rebuild their factories and provide new battery-powered cars and light trucks.

“It’s really important to have these big players take on these commitments, even if we have to make sure they follow up,” said Margo Oge, a former senior U.S. air quality officer who now advises both environmental groups and car companies. “It really tells us that these companies and their boards accept that the future is electric.”

The automakers who signed the pledge accounted for about a quarter of global sales in 2019.

Countries that joined the coalition included Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden. The addition of India was particularly notable as it is the world’s fourth largest car market and has not previously committed to eliminating emissions from its cars on a specific timeline.

California and Washington State also signed the pledge. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed a decree saying only new zero-emission vehicles would be sold in the state by 2035, though regulators have not yet issued rules to make that happen. Washington had not previously made such a formal promise.

Credit…Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The theme for Wednesday at the Glasgow climate summit is transport. Worldwide, governments and automakers are promoting electric vehicles as a key technology to curb oil consumption and combat climate change.

But as electric cars and trucks become mainstream, they have faced a persistent question: Are they really as green as advertised?

Although experts broadly agree that plug-in vehicles are a more climate-friendly option than traditional ones, they can still have their own environmental impacts, depending on how they are charged and manufactured.

Here’s a guide to some of the biggest concerns – and how they can be addressed:

Credit…Thomas Peter / Reuters

Electric cars are better for the climate than gas-powered cars, but many Americans are still reluctant to buy them. One reason: The greater upfront costs.

But data released in January showed that despite the higher sticker price, electric cars can actually save motorists money in the long run.

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculated both carbon dioxide emissions and lifetime costs – including purchase price, maintenance and fuel – for almost all new car models on the market.

They found that electric cars were easily more climate-friendly than gas-burning. Over the course of a lifetime, they were often also cheaper.

Read the full article below:

Credit…Erin Schaff / The New York Times

Wealthy nations have promised to “pursue efforts” to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. But achieving that goal means that all countries must commit to reducing emissions faster and deeper than they already do.

For every fraction of a degree of warming, scientists say, the world will experience more intense heat waves and droughts and more deadly floods and forest fires. Humans have been warming the planet by about 1.1 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century.

Countries have less than 10 years to reduce emissions enough to keep the planet below 1.5 degrees warming. So if leaders do not commit to bold steps now that so much global attention is focused on the climate negotiations in Glasgow, many fear the world will run towards dangerous levels of warming.

Read the article below to see how far the world has come and not gone.

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