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COP26: Humanity's Last  Opportunity to Limit Climate Change to 1.5 Degrees

COP26 is humanity’s opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius … and adapt to the locked-in climate change impacts we're already living with. For this to happen, every country, including Australia, must bring the most ambitious commitments and actions they can muster to the meeting - and then go home and act on them.

 

 

I’m passionate about bringing about significant positive change in communities through renewables, so that we can co-exist harmoniously on our planet. It’s why I've worked in sustainability my entire career, and been following the Conference of the Parties since COP5 when I worked in the NSW Government’s Sustainable Energy Development Authority initiating climate smart policies across businesses and households.

 

My reason for being is to be a beacon of hope and empowerment for others. I know that together we can make the changes that are needed, before it’s too late.

 

I've made a video to express, on behalf of Enova, our position on Australia's commitments going into COP26 and I'm proud to offer it to you here: 

 

 

I'm also writing as the leader of a community energy organisation committed to a 100 per cent renewable energy future, that works every day to bring more renewable energy into Australian homes and businesses. I hear the call of people from within my community and across the country asking for radical, rapid and transformative change.

 

I talk daily with people in communities working to bring renewable energy innovation and climate change actions into their neighbourhoods and I am constantly inspired by the community action occurring all around us. 

 

The warnings about climate change have been ringing through political halls for decades. I am thrilled that all Australian State Governments have announced their net zero emissions targets. Yet at the Federal Government level, Australia remains attached to its 2030 carbon reduction target of just 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels.

 

Our nation's leaders keep approving coal mines, gas projects and drilling for oil. Internationally, while the world's developed nations have increased their carbon reduction targets for 2030, many are also still operating and approving fossil fuel projects. This has to stop. 

 

And now it's crunch time. We've got ten years to reduce carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent, and until 2050 to get them to zero. Not a creative accounting version of zero, but actual real zero emissions by 2050. That means, no new fossil fuels, anywhere. 

 

The systems change required could have begun decades ago. However fossil fuel subsidies have kept a dying industry alive for far too long. The changes we now need to implement will seem radical because they will need to happen very rapidly. I do remain hopeful, however, because COVID-19 and the global response has already proven that governments can act swiftly when they want to.  

 

The science, technology and knowledge exists to enable the transformation to a localised, distributed renewable energy system that's also regenerative for the planet. The thing is though, it is absolutely up to all of us: individually, at a community level, in every business and at every level of government. 

 

I'll be watching with great interest the outcomes of COP26 and will be paying particular attention to Day 5 on Thursday, 4 November which focusses on Energy. I encourage everyone to take a look at the program, follow the news updates of COP26 outcomes, and participate in the citizens Greenzone. All of the relevant links are provided later in in this blog. 

 

It's like, together, we are all standing on the edge of a cliff. We can either take the leap, do the work and make the transformative systems changes that are needed - meaning we will all need to live differently. Or we can turn around and walk back the way we came, back toward increasing climate catastrophe. The position we find ourselves in is that dire. What we need to do, collectively, is take the leap.

 

I am going to hand this blog over to my team at Enova, now, who have put together an excellent resource to help get everyone up to speed on climate change, current science and what's happening on the global stage this month. 

 

Thank you. 

 

Felicity Stening

CEO Enova Community Energy

 

 

COP26, the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report and what it all means

COP26 refers to the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (which is the the peak decision-making body for the world’s climate change commitments). The meeting is due to commence on 31 October and run for two weeks in Glasgow, Scotland.

The COP26 meeting is a make-or-break meeting for nations to decide and act to limit climate change impacts globally. COP26 is six years after the Paris Agreement was signed by 196 countries agreeing to limit global warming to 2 degrees and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels.

 

“The choices we make in the year ahead will determine whether we unleash a tidal wave of climate catastrophe on generations to come. But the power to hold back that wave rests entirely with us.”

Alok Sharma, COP President- Designate, December 2020

 

The commitments that countries put forward at the time of the Paris Agreement (2015) fell well short of what's needed to keep global temperatures at 1.5 degrees, so they also agreed to increase their commitments every five years. In fact, at present we're on track to reach 2.7 - 3 degrees of warming if countries don't significantly increase their carbon emissions reduction targets at COP26.

This where the IPCC report comes in. COP26 (the deadline for those increased commitments!) follows closely behind the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report - its 6th Assessment Report - released on 9 August 2021, which declared that Earth is just ten years away from 1.5 degrees of climate change.

The IPCC report confirmed that there is absolutely no doubt that human activity has already warmed the planet, that impacts are being felt worldwide in the form of more frequent and more severe droughts, floods, fires, and storms; and, that without immediate action the effects will only get worse.

It covers humans’ influence on the climate system, extreme weather, and the current and future state of our climate. The report is years in the making and draws from a new generation of highly advanced climate models and scenarios.  

 

It is the work of literally hundreds of scientists from around the world and is put through an extraordinarily rigorous process of review. 

 

The Climate Council has summarised the main points to note: 

  • The report shows there is a narrow path and window to avoiding climate catastrophe, ….Only avoidable through immediate, deep and sustained emissions reductions. This may be our final warning.  
  • We know climate change is already wreaking havoc around the world, with worse to come.  We’ve seen that recently in China, the USA with floods, and bushfires.
  • Our decisions in the next 10 years will be the difference between a liveable future for today’s young people, and a future that is not compatible with well-functioning human societies. 
  • Every choice and every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters. 
  • We’ll see the right choices measured in lives, livelihoods, species and ecosystems saved.  
  • We know that deep cuts to emissions will be realized well within our lifetimes, and even more so for our children and grandchildren. 

You can read more about the IPCC 6th Assessment Report here.

 

“We’ve run down the clock but it’s never too late.1.7C is better than 1.9C which is better than 3C. Cutting emissions tomorrow is better than the day after, because we can always avoid worse happening. The action is far too slow at the moment, but we can still act.” 

 

                                 Dr Joeri Rogelj, Director of Research at the Grantham Institute and Reader in Climate Science & Policy at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London.

 

With the Paris Agreement signatories having agreed to strive to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, we're at crunch time. The Glasgow climate talks will have to get all countries on board with agreed emissions reductions to achieve the 1.5 degree limit within the next 10 years. 

 

The great news is that almost all developed countries have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, and substantially strengthened their 2030 targets ahead of Glasgow. However, Australia has yet to strengthen its 2030 commitment of a 26-28 per cent emissions reduction from 2005 levels and remains a fossil fuel giant, with coal and gas industries that are among the world’s biggest drivers of climate change.

 

Why does only a few degrees matter?

 

In 2018 the IPCC released a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 

 

In total, humans have pumped around 2,500bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) into the atmosphere since 1850, leaving less than 500GtCO2 of remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5C of warming.

 

It shows the dire consequences we face if we fail to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. Even at 1.1°C of global warming, how much the global temperature has increased by so far, the impacts we have seen from a changing climate have been intolerable. Lives, livelihoods and homes have been unnecessarily destroyed and communities are under constant pressure.

 

The Climate Council has summarised the impacts of 1.5 degrees of warming compared to 2 degrees of warming as projected by the 2018 IPCC report here.

 

What makes the IPCC such an authority? 

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the Unite Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

 

Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the objective of the IPCC is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies. IPCC reports are also a key input into international climate change negotiations.

 

The IPCC currently has 195 members. Thousands of people from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. For the assessment reports, IPCC scientists volunteer their time to assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks. An open and transparent review by experts and governments around the world is part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment and to reflect a diverse range of views and expertise. Through its assessments, the IPCC identifies the strength of scientific agreement in different areas and indicates where further research is needed. The IPCC does not conduct its own research.

 

What does COP26 aim to achieve?

 

They key objectives of COP26 are to enable countries to make decisions on mitigation and abatement, adaptation, financing and collaboration.

 

Here's an outline of the objectives of the meeting: 

 

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:

  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
3. Mobilise finance

To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020. 

International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

At COP26 we must:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
  • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

You can participate!

 

Webinar: Join leading Australian climate scientists Prof. Will Stephan, Prof. Lesley Hughes and Dr Simon Bradshaw, in the special pre-COP26 webinar organised by the Climate Council - Game on for Glasgow: A Snapshot of International Action on 26 October 2021. Register for free here.

 

The COP26 Greenzone Program is for YOU!

Youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, business from across the world will be hosting events, exhibitions, cultural performances, workshops and talks. With over 100 exhibitors, 200 events and 11 sponsors taking over the space, there will be amazing opportunities to listen, learn and celebrate climate action. Anyone can join virtually by subscribing to the COP26 YouTube channel.

One week before COP26, the hosts will update the listed events to include a link to each live stream that will be freely available. FInd out more here.

COP26 Official Program: You can keep track of the Conference's official program here.

 

 

We hope this blog has helped you to get up to speed on the biggest and most important gathering of our time, happening in less than 10 days time. There are ways to participate, there much to learn and a hell of a lot to lose.  Every single action we take has great importance and meaning for the health of our planet and the wellbeing of us, her people and children.  We encourage you to absorb this information we've put together and participate. Please, do not look away.

 

These are the times we were made for.

 

Additional Reading:

The Climate Council - COP26 and why is it so important?

The Climate Council Report - From Paris to Glasgow: A World On The Move

The Guardian: The climate disaster is here. 

Greta Thunberg writes for The Guardian: There are no real leaders yet. Who will step up at COP26?

 

The Climate Council Resources: What is Climate Change and How is it Caused? 

 

 

 

Author: Cassandra Sheppard

 

 

 

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