'We Are Fighting For the Survival of Humanity'

Much of COP26's success rests on China
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2021 10:25 AM CDT
'We Are Fighting For the Survival of Humanity'
Banners are displayed in central Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday, ahead of the UN climate conference COP26.   (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

The most important climate conference in years is about to begin. Delayed from 2020, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, will run from Sunday to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, and will see nations present their updated plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and lay out how those targets might be met. The stakes couldn't be higher, according to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. "We are fighting for the survival of humanity," he says, per CTV News. Here's what to expect:

  • The goals: As CTV puts it, "Do more and do it faster." Organizers hope to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which will mean cutting greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030 as compared with 2010 levels and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Global temperatures have already climbed 1.1 degrees (2 degrees F).
  • Bye, bye coal?: UN Secretary General António Guterres has said the phasing out of coal power is "the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal," per Time. He wants to see wealthy countries agree to drop coal power by 2030, with developing countries following a decade later.

  • Help for developing nations: A tough sell for some will be a commitment from developed countries to supply $100 billion each year to support climate efforts in developing countries, "which have contributed far less to creating the current climate crisis," per Time. The total amount of funding now pledged for the 2020-2025 period is up to $75 billion short, according to Oxfam.
  • Renewable energy: "Today's climate pledges would result in only 20% of the emissions reductions by 2030 that are necessary to put the world on a path towards net zero by 2050," notes International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol. The agency says renewable energy investment needs to more than triple over the next decade, with 70% of the spending occurring in the developing world.

  • Focus on China: China is the biggest investor in clean energy but also the world's largest polluter, responsible for more than a quarter of global emissions, per NBC News. According to the Climate Action Tracker, China's current policies toward reducing carbon emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2060 are "highly insufficient" and are projected to result in a 3-degree rise in temps.
  • The urgency: A 3-degree increase presents a terrifying scenario of potential mass starvation, with up to 50% drops in crop yields, per the Sydney Morning Herald. The world is already seeing massive wildfires, unprecedented flooding, record-breaking heat, and increasingly frequent and severe weather events. And it will only get worse from here, meaning cities and regions need to address climate hazards now, per the paper.

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  • The precursor: Leaders from G-20 nations—which account for around 75% of the world's carbon emissions—will meet in Rome this weekend in an "attempt to forge a common position," the Wall Street Journal reports. But so far, officials say there isn’t much consensus, with countries including China, India, Russia, and Australia opposing coal-reduction targets. The US, the world's second-largest polluter (we have cumulatively emitted more than any other country over the past 150 years), has committed to reduce emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030, per NPR.
(Read more global warming stories.)

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