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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,101
Nov. 18, 2021
World Leaders Agree on Climate Change
By Mike McManus

World leaders agreed to a new climate change consensus after two weeks of intense negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland. While some countries agreed to ambitious cuts in heat-trapping pollution, many nations did not agree to cut emissions fast enough for the world to avoid catastrophic damage from climate-driven storms, heat waves and droughts.

However, the Summit's progress means the goal is within reach, provided countries follow through on their pledges.

The agreement built a worldwide consensus to transition away from fossil fuels and to speed up countries' ambitions to cut emissions faster.

As negotiators met in closed door sessions, thousands of activists filled the streets to remind them the world has less than a decade to get greenhouse gases under control.

Emissions must fall 45% by 2030 to give the planet a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Instead, they are expected to rise 14% over the next nine years.

After four years of non-participation under President Trump, the U.S. sought to regain climate credibility at these talks, urging other nations to be more ambitious while trying to ensure that its policies are not killed by a divided Congress.

Developing countries, already suffering damage from intense hurricanes and droughts, made a unified plea for climate justice. Richer countries are responsible for the bulk of climate emissions, they said, but poorer nations are suffering the most. At the conference end, they were those most disappointed, leaving only with promises that their pleas would be addressed in the future.

India, a country heavily reliant on coal power, agreed to reach net-zero emissions by a distant 2070. Saudi Arabia pledged to go net zero by 2060 and Brazil, by 2050.

More than 100 countries signed a pledge at the Summit to cut methane emissions 30% by 2030. Potent greenhouse gas has 80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.

Another coalition of countries agreed to halt deforestation by 2030, including the heavily forested nations of Russia and Brazil.

China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, held firm to its plan to allow emissions to rise until 2030, eventually declining to net-zero in four decades - by 2060. But in a surprise announcement, the U.S. and China agreed to work together "to strengthen and accelerate climate action and cooperation" into the future.

U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry asserted, "It's the first time China and the United States have stood up - the two biggest emitters in the world - and said, "We're going to work together to accelerate the reduction."

However experts concluded that the pledges will not reduce emissions fast enough to keep the world within the crucial limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, as agreed to in the Paris climate talks. Instead, the world would be on track for 1.8 degrees Celsius of warming according to an analysis from the International Energy Agency.

This promise is an improvement over previous pledges. But it depends entirely upon countries following through on their promises, and many have provided few concrete details.

Even with past commitments, many governments haven't backed up words with actions. Based on what countries are currently doing on the ground, the world is headed toward a 2.7 degree Celsius warming, or almost 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Glasgow meeting marked a major moment for global action. It was the first time that nations updated their plans to limit emissions since the historic Paris agreement in 2015.

But with current climate commitments falling short, many developing nations advocated for speeding up that schedule, arguing that waiting another 5 years would mean valuable time is lost. Coalitions of poorer nations, like the Climate Vulnerable Form, urged richer countries to come back with stronger pledges every year to cut their emissions.

"The safety of my children and yours hangs in the balance," said Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege in the final days of negotiations. "It's time for us to level up. We need to keep returning to the table."

China was one of several delegations heavily reliant on fossil fuels that pushed back on that idea, urging countries be given "space and time" to set their climate plans.

In the end, the final agreement held as firmly as a consensus agreement speeding up progress, saying it requests countries to "revisit and strengthen" their plans by 2022.

Mankind is steward of all that God created. We are not to exploit, waste or abuse our planet. Nations seem to have ignored our sacred calling to what God entrusted to our care. We are Environmental Citizens, and time is running out!

Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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