22 Nov, 2021
Be warned: This article is positive!
COP26, just finished in Glasgow, represents our planet’s new commitment to overcoming the climate crisis that we’ve all contributed to. Chances are that you have seen some of the highlights on the box, but perhaps a wee bit confused as to what it all means. So am I!
So where to start? As mentioned in previous articles our unique challenge is that progress must be achieved at four levels simultaneously - globally, nationally, community and individually (that’s you).
The global agenda is effectively driven by the United Nations. They have staged a series of annual climate conferences since the early 90s. Paris 2015 was the landmark event by defining that temperature increases be restricted to 1.5C by 2050 by reducing those nasty greenhouse gas emissions. Each supporting country was left to define how best to achieve this goal. Aotearoa signed onto this. Annual meetings, called COPs, are established to monitor international performance and advocate for improvements. Glasgow was the 26th COP.
The United Nations is also the centre of excellence when it comes to the scientific community working together to determine just how hazardous GHGs are and what’s the current state of play. Known as IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) they produce very detailed reports every few years. The most recent one, published a few weeks before COP26, stunned the world by indicating that current measures and commitments are now likely to result in a huge increase to 2.4C. Sadly despite 30 years of COP-ing, the planet is producing even more damaging GHG emissions than ever!
The attendance in Glasgow was stunning, approaching 30,000 delegates including royalty, presidents, prime ministers, captains of industry, humanitarians, and a few movie stars. Greta Thunberg and thousands of youngsters actively protested on the streets of Glasgow throughout the conference rightly highlighting that the time for more words was over, the time for action now critical. Sadly a few rather important players such as the leaders of China and Russia were no-shows. Australia’s contribution was an embarrassment.
Much appears to have been achieved at Glasgow. It’s now time for every participating nation to go home and interpret how best to upgrade their plans to accommodate the more substantial and urgent targets.
Among the COP26 positive highlights. Finally, the recognition that fossil fuels are the major cause of the problem. Coal mining to be phased down. Reduction in the exploration of petrol and natural gasses. Deforestation to be stopped. Acknowledgement as to the substantial damage caused by methane. The need for the ‘wealthy’ nations to contribute $100 billion each year to protect the ‘poorer’ nations that are suffering the consequences. Despite many nations upping their targets to reduce emissions by 2030 prior to COP26, the conference concluded that if every nation achieved such goals, then temperatures would not trend towards 1.5C but more likely the 2.4C that IPCC has predicted! Therefore we were all encouraged to be braver and establish more aggressive goals.
What does this mean for good old Aotearoa? Time will tell. Certainly we have agreed to far more ambitious reductions in emissions by 2030. For example, a 30 per cent reduction in methane compared to the current 10 per cent reduction. Whilst methane is generated from landfills, rice paddies, and poorly maintained petrochemical pipelines, most is from ruminating livestock - cattle, cows, and sheep. Our Minister for Climate Change has stated that
we cannot achieve our new targets purely by measures within our own borders and the gap, perhaps 60 per cent of the target, will be made up by sponsoring overseas activities. This is anticipated to cost us taxpayers around the $15 billion mark, effectively massively subsidising livestock. We are currently still allowing deforestation, using coal, and despite banning new licences for oil exploration offshore, still facilitating onshore exploration.
At present we simply do not have a national plan. Yes, cheaper EVs for a few more months, and a few more EV charging points on our highways, but not much more. Costs are to be incorporated into the May 2022 budget, but the Ministry for the Environment is still seeking public input as to how we can achieve our goals.
2030 may seem very distant, but it will come soon enough. Watch this space!
Sadly despite 30 years of COP-ing, the planet is producing even more damaging GHG emissions than ever.
Annual meetings, called COPs, are established to monitor international performance and advocate for improvements.