Climate summit: time to take stock, six years after the Paris agreement

After Paris, we can bet that Glasgow will remain in people’s minds. The 26e United Nations climate conference (COP26), organized from October 31 to November 12, in the Scottish city, bears a heavy responsibility: considerably accelerate the fight against climate change to avoid its worst effects, already perceptible all over the globe. To prove, too, that the Paris climate agreement works. Six years after its adoption, this is the first moment of truth.

In 2015, during the COP21, hosted in France, the 195 countries and the European Union agreed to limit warming to well below 2 ° C, and if possible to 1.5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era. . To achieve this, all the states of the world have, for the first time, made commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. However, these voluntary plans have proved largely insufficient, so that countries agreed to revise them upwards every five years until reaching carbon neutrality in 2050. We are at the end of the first five-year cycle – or more exactly six, since COP26 has been postponed by ‘one year because of the Covid-19 pandemic – so it’s time to take stock.

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Have we made progress? At the margin. In 2015, the promises of the States led the planet towards a warming of 3.2 ° C at the end of the century. From now on, the trajectory is always that of a “Climate catastrophe” according to the UN: 2.7 ° C or more, the objectives not being met for the moment. More than 140 countries have submitted new plans to the United Nations, but only a large half are more ambitious than the previous ones. About sixty states have also set a goal of carbon neutrality in the middle of the century, but without detailing how to achieve it and without turning their backs on fossil fuels, the leading cause of global warming.

Not yet the “last chance”

Everywhere, inadequacies and inconsistencies show that a true energy transition is not yet on the agenda. While the world’s main emitter, China, has become the leading producer of wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars, it is at the same time still “addicted” to coal: its consumption is growing, and the country continues to build new plants. Its Indian neighbor, the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after the European Union and the United States), is following the same path in the name of the right to development and is reluctant to commit to carbon neutrality. The Prime Minister has said it over and over again: he considers that it is up to the rich countries, historical polluters, to step up their efforts.

The US, EU, UK, Canada are ramping up (with the notable exception of Australia), but their plans are still not aligned with the 1.5 ° C target, and these countries do not mobilize enough funding to help the countries of the South to cope with climate change. This financial assistance is however crucial and proves to be a driver of climate action.

At COP26, States will have to restore confidence and solidarity, in a tense context between North and South. But whether this high mass turns into success or failure, it is not that of the “last chance”: it will always be possible to launch into the battle later. However, if governments in Glasgow cannot break away from years of inaction, they will need to keep in mind that when it comes to warming every year and every fraction of a degree counts.

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Climate summit: time to take stock, six years after the Paris agreement