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Climate Emergency: turning point but ‘we are not prepared’

Filed under Climate Emergency

At TTU we highlight cutting edge trends to alert leaders on why they must change how they think.

This posting assesses the positive impact of the many dramatic global political declarations at President Biden’s virtual climate summit on 22-23 April 2021. It should encourage and mobilise us all.

Christiana Figueres was the UN Executive Secretary for The Framework Convention on Climate Change which secured the remarkable Paris climate agreement in 2015.

She has since co-founded Global Optimism with Tom Rivett-Carnac. Their focus is on how to achieve the environmental and social changes so urgently needed.

Their book The Future We Choose highlights brilliantly the dilemmas each of us faces, and the choices we must all make.

This is a lightly edited version of Christiana’s interview with Evan Davis on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on 22 April 2021.

It is very significant. It is a turning point.

The fact that we have a new ambitious target from the US, a 50 to 52% cut [in carbon emissions] by 2030; the fact that the UK has actually already announced 78% by 2035; Japan with a new ambitious 46 to 50% by 2030; Canada raising its pledge; South Korea - very interesting they will be coming in with a new pledge.

What they’ve actually recommended is to end all public financing for overseas coal power plants – [that’s] a big, big step for Korea.

And South Africa coming in with an emissions peak by 2025, five years earlier. And even Brazil that nobody had honestly much hopes for. But President Bolsonaro came in with a neutrality target by 2050, which is 10 years earlier than he had previously set.

The fact is we have to wait until everything is in. To all of these national targets we have to then add what other stakeholders, private companies and finance are going to do. It’s going to be a long day of very, very good news and announcements.

Paris target: maximum 1.5 degree temperature rise

I would not be surprised if this brings us in under 2 [degrees]. I don’t think it brings us to 1.5 yet. But I think this is certainly keeping 1.5 alive.

If we hadn’t had this ambition today, we could have waved goodbye to 1.5. We’re keeping it alive.

We’re probably somewhere under two. But let’s see when we see the numbers.

Why a new optimism is possible

Several factors have contributed.

First, the solutions technologies have come down in price extraordinarily.

Solar, wind have come down. At least 80% in solar; 40 to 50% in wind since the Paris Agreement. Now it is absolutely clear that renewable energies, plus the cost of storage for the installation of new generation plants, is cheaper in most jurisdictions than operating a coal plant.

Number two, there is so much more public interest, public awareness, public pressure, including the young people on the streets. It is very difficult for anyone to withstand that kind of scrutiny.

Thirdly, I think there is a growing awareness of the science. We really do understand that we are facing here two very, very different worlds: a world that could go into constant destruction and human misery, or a world that is actually much better than what we have right now.

Warning: we are not ready to do what is needed

Such an important question. The fact is that emission reductions is what I would like to say is the fat head of the work on climate change. It needs to be done immediately.

But there’s a long tail of devastating effects that will come from the impacts of climate change that I don’t think that we are ready for. Even if we would be able to reduce emissions to zero by tomorrow morning, we still will have those long tail effects, because the concentrations are long living.

While my enthusiasm is about emission reductions, the fact is that we are not prepared. We have not done enough on adaptation and resilience, in particular in developing countries who are going to be the most hit and the least prepared.

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