Shared from the 11/10/2021 Houston Chronicle eEdition


U.N. makes small steps in talks

Officials discuss cutting emissions but say bigger action still needed

Alberto Pezzali / Associated Press

Former President Barack Obama greets people Tuesday at the U.S. Center at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

GLASGOW, Scotland — The United Nations climate summit in Glasgow has made “some serious toddler steps” toward cutting emissions but far from the giant leaps needed to limit global warming to internationally accepted goals, two new analyses and top officials said Tuesday.

And time is running out on the two weeks of negotiations.

The president of the climate talks, Alok Sharma, told high-level government ministers at the U.N. conference to reach out to their capitals and bosses soon to see if they can get more ambitious pledges because “we have only a few days left.”

This month’s summit has seen such limited progress that a United Nations Environment Programme analysis of new pledges found they weren’t enough to improve future warming scenarios. All they did was trim the “emissions gap” — how much carbon pollution can be spewed without hitting dangerous warming levels— a few tenths of a percentage point, according to the review released Tuesday.

The analysis found that by 2030, the world will be emitting 51.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, 1.5 billion tons less than before the latest pledges. To achieve the limit first set in the 2015 Paris climate accord, which came out of a similar summit, the world can only emit 12.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2030.

A separate analysis by independent scientists found a slight decrease in future warming, but one still insufficient to limit the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The planet already has warmed 1.1 degrees since pre-industrial times.

“There’s some serious toddler steps,” United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said a few minutes after the U.N. analysis was finished. “But they are not the leaps we need to see, by any stretch of the imagination.”

In Glasgow, officials touted advances, but not necessarily success.

“We are making progress,” Sharma said, “but we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days, and what has been collectively committed to goes some way, but certainly not all the way, to keeping 1.5 within reach.”

Andersen acknowledged that none of the three main U.N. criteria for success for the two-week climate talks has been achieved so far. They are cutting greenhouse gas emissions by about half by 2030; securing $100 billion a year in aid from rich countries to poor nations; and having half of that money be for for developing nations to adapt to global warming’s worst harms.

“We’re not done yet. We still have a couple of days,” Andersen said. “And so we’re certainly from our side, from the United Nations side, we’re going to try to hold everyone’s feet to the fire.”

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