1.5 slipping away: The UN released an assessment last week detailing the status of countries commitments to addressing climate change. Climate pledges are falling. Only 26 of 193 countries have followed through with their agreements to step up their climate actions. The planet is on track to warm by an average of 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius, far higher than the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, if GHG emissions aren’t drastically reduced.
But there’s a lot getting in the way of countries living up to their commitments, leaders are preoccupied with an array of issues, war in Ukraine, global inflation, political turmoil, soaring energy and food prices, etc.
At last year’s climate summit, countries pledged to accelerate their efforts to reduce their emissions or nationally determined contributions, NDCs. They agreed not to wait another five years, but to instead pledge to make new climate commitments before the talks begin on November 7 in Egypt.
It is expected that COP 27 is going to focus on whether wealthy high-emitting nations should compensate poor countries who are the least prepared for climate change impacts. An agreement is unlikely, but it is notable that the topic is going to make it onto the conference’s agenda for the first time. Lesser-developed and low -lying island nations are going to press for compensation through the creation of an international fund. Wealthy countries oppose this because they do not want to be held legally liable for steeply rising disaster costs.
The UN study says only an urgent transformation of society will avoid disaster and that there is no credible pathway to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 Celsius.
Also, released in the run-up to COP27, the Lancet Countdown report is a “call to arms” looking at the linkages between continued fossil fuel reliance and food insecurity, disease and illness. Heat related deaths have increased globally by 2/3 over the last 20 years, Extreme weather increases the pressure on health services globally, and the health impacts of extreme heat include exacerbating conditions related to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and causing heat strokes and poor mental health. The report estimates that air pollution exposure contributed to 4.7 million deaths globally in 2020, of which 1.3 million or 35% is directly related to fossil fuel combustion.
UNICEF also released a report last week as well warning that urgent action is necessary to protect children and vulnerable communities from worsening heat waves and detailing the link between climate change and the increased spread of infectious disease.
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