A year ago, at the UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, heads of state and business leaders made a long list of splashy promises to help fight global warming.
But as the 2022 climate summit gets underway in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this week, many countries and companies have made only halting progress toward the goals they set for themselves, such as curbing deforestation or increasing the amount of climate aid to poorer nations. In some cases, governments are backsliding on promises as war, energy shortages and inflation have overshadowed climate concerns.
The focus of this year’s talks, experts said, will be figuring out how nations can follow through on their pledges. Unlike at previous climate talks, “there are no real big treaty-related negotiations left,” said Kaveh Guilanpour, a vice president at the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions. “What we are now faced with is the very hard work of actually implementing promises made.”
Below are five promises made last year in Glasgow and the progress (or lack of progress) that countries have made to date:
1. Cut Emissions Faster
At Glasgow, world leaders agreed that countries weren’t cutting greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid dangerous levels of warming and urged governments to “revisit and strengthen” their climate plans over the coming year if feasible. Since then, just 24 countries have done so.
Experts have calculated that all the national plans submitted to date would put the world on track to heat up roughly 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, compared with preindustrial levels. That’s a slight improvement over estimates from last year, but it’s much higher than the Paris agreement’s aim of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to minimize the risk of deadly heat waves, sea-level rise, ecosystem collapse, and other calamities.
“Nations have made some progress this year,” said Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “But we are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required.”
He added that it was “disappointing” that so few countries had strengthened their plans.
Australia and Indonesia submitted more ambitious goals for curbing greenhouse gases. The United States was not expected to update its target of cutting emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, which was announced before Glasgow, but it did approve $370 billion in new clean energy spending aimed at getting most of the way to that goal.
China, the world’s largest emitter, hasn’t said whether it will update its goal.
2. Phase Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies
Countries also agreed in Glasgow to accelerate the deployment of clean energy while moving toward a “phasedown” of coal power and a “phaseout” of government subsidies for fossil fuels.
The results have been mixed.
Clean energy is surging: The amount of electricity generated by low-carbon sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and hydropower dams increased by more than 10% globally this year, according to the International Energy Agency. Investment in renewables is set to reach $494 billion, surpassing that of oil and gas drilling for the first time ever, according to Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.
But on the flip side, coal use is also soaring to record highs this year, largely because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused natural gas prices to spike. Germany and Austria have reopened previously shuttered coal power plants. China has approved new coal mines, although it has also halted 26 of the 104 coal plants it planned to build overseas. While forecasters still predict that global coal use will decline this decade as clean energy grows, that hasn’t happened yet.
Fossil fuel subsidies, for their part, are still on the rise. In 2021, nations spent $697 billion to encourage oil and gas drilling or to lower the price of petroleum and heating fuels for consumers, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
That figure is set to increase again this year as governments spend billions trying to shield their citizens from rising energy prices.
3. Increase Aid to Poorer Countries
In 2009, the world’s wealthiest nations pledged $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 to help poorer countries shift to cleaner energy sources and adapt to the consequences of global warming. At Glasgow, wealthy countries acknowledged they were still falling short of that goal but vowed to get there by 2023. They also promised to double the amount of aid going toward climate adaptation, to about $40 billion per year by 2025.
It’s unclear if rich countries will meet those targets.
By one official estimate, the United States, European Union, World Bank and other wealthy institutions collectively provided $83.3 billion in climate finance in 2020, leaving a large gap to close. And even that may overstate the amount of aid provided: outside groups such as Oxfam have argued that some of that money may not be going toward climate change projects and is hard to track.
In a recent progress report, Canada and Germany both detailed concrete steps they were taking to increase climate aid and insisted that wealthy nations as a whole could meet their finance goals. But in the United States, increasing foreign assistance has been politically challenging: Last year, Senate Democrats sought $3.1 billion in additional climate finance for 2022 but managed to secure only $1 billion.
4. Slash Methane Emissions
At Glasgow, more than 100 countries signed a voluntary pledge to slash emissions of methane 30% by 2030. Scientists say that curbing methane — a potent greenhouse gas produced from oil and natural gas operations, livestock, and landfills — could be a fast way to limit the near-term rise in global temperatures.
Most nations are only getting started. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed, but not finalized, new regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, while Congress provided $4.7 billion to plug old, leaky wells. This summer, the United States and European Union also announced a new partnership with countries such as Canada, Japan, Nigeria, Mexico to put nearly $60 million into efforts to plug methane leaks and monitor emissions with satellites.
Yet dozens of other countries that signed the pledge have not yet provided details on how they plan to tackle methane, according to a recent analysis by the World Resources Institute.
Rising geopolitical tensions have also slowed progress: One of the major developments in Glasgow was a new agreement between the United States and China to work together to curb methane emissions. But China abruptly halted all climate cooperation between the two countries shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August.
5. Halt Deforestation
More than 130 countries also pledged in Glasgow to “halt and reverse” deforestation by 2030 and commit billions of dollars toward the effort. That included Brazil, Indonesia and Congo, home to most of the world’s tropical forests.
So far, the world is not on track for that goal. The amount of global deforestation declined 6.3% between 2020 and 2021, according to a recent report by the Forest Declaration Platform. That’s the good news. The bad news is deforestation would need to decline much faster, roughly 10% each year, for countries to meet their 2030 goal.
A number of countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Ivory Coast and Ghana, made major progress in protecting their forests, the report said. After suffering extensive forest and peat fires in 2016, Indonesia has put in place tougher regulations on its palm oil industry, while corporations have faced pressure to reduce deforestation.
It’s a different story in Congo, where the government this year auctioned off large swathes of its rainforest for oil drilling. The move came after international donors pledged $500 million to help the country curb deforestation. With crude oil prices soaring, Congo shifted its priorities, insisting that oil development was needed to provide economic growth.
Brazil remains a wild card. Deforestation in the Amazon accelerated after President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019 and cut funding for environmental protection while encouraging logging and mining. The country’s newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, oversaw a decline in deforestation the last time he was in office, from 2003 to 2010, and has promised to do so again, although analysts say it won’t be easy.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Source : OmanObserver