Five years after signing of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, the latest meet — Climate Ambition Summit — attended by 70 world leaders on Saturday, showed that little progress has been in reducing the global emissions levels.
A legally binding international treaty on climate change, Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 countries at COP21 in the French capital in 2015. Its key objective is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial levels.
The latest Climate Ambition Summit, co-hosted by the United Nations, the UK and France, has been dubbed as a disappointment as most countries failed to live up to their commitments, despite the pledge from China, one of the key carbon emissions producers in the world, to aim for a net carbon neutrality in less than 40 years.
Climate change is a clear and present danger. It cannot be confronted unilaterally. The latest global summit showed that despite solid commitments by dozens of countries, there can be no real difference if others are not so keen
In 2020, carbon emissions fell a record 7 per cent- an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes, as most countries imposed lockdowns and restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the Global Carbon Project, released before the Saturday summit.
The decline is considerably larger than previous annual record falls, such as 0.9 billion tonnes at the end of the Second World War or 0.5 billion tonnes in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis. However, as countries scramble to revive their economies, shut down by the coronavirus, it is expected that those gains will be capped.
Far more destructive even than coronavirus
In a stark warning at the summit opening, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the climate change challenge was “far more destructive even than coronavirus.” Although the US is expected to rejoin the Paris Agreement when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next year, the Paris goals seem more elusive than ever.
Only 76 countries, of those 196 that signed the Paris Agreement, presented their plans in the Climate Ambition Summit. Needless to add climate finance is critical to mitigate the risks because large investment, not available to poor nations, is required to upgrade production activities in order to help reduce emissions.
Climate change is a clear and present danger. It cannot be confronted unilaterally. The latest global summit showed that despite solid commitments by dozens of countries, there can be no real difference if others are not so keen.
A collective will is important to galvanise action and address the most pressing issue of our time. We hope that world leaders will bear that in mind when they meet in Glasgow next year.