Climate change: Will COP23 be able to accelerate the implementation of the Paris agreement?

Miguel Arias Cañete at the podium.
Date: 21/09/2017. Location: Chania. © European Union , 2017 Photo: Stefanos Rapanis

The next UN climate summit (COP23) will take place in Bonn, Germany from 6 till 17 November with everyone to await its outcome and whether it will be beneficial for the global warming adding to the Paris agreement.

It is a crucial year for the climate as the US has declared to leave the Paris pact and UN’s reports show that concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased dramatically in 2016. This summit is about to play a key technical role on the implementation of the Paris rulebook.

Beside0s, UNFCCC announced that COP23 will be “climate-neutral” using three kinds of measures: energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy and offsetting unavoidable emissions.

CO2 levels hit record high

According to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, UN weather agency’s annual report, the concentration of CO2 has reached 403.3 parts per million (ppm), higher compared to the 400.00 ppm in 2015. Erik Solheim, UN Environment chief, mentioned on the issue that: “The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive”.

Furthermore, the report indicates that CO2 concentrations are currently 145%, methane 257% and nitrous oxide 122% above pre-industrial levels. Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said that these facts should alarm the world leaders. Professor Reay also mentioned that: “We know that, as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”

Business and climate change

A research from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) found that nine out of ten of the world’s biggest firms have set strategies to decrease gas emissions but only 20% of these companies are planning to do so from 2030 and beyond.

Paul Simpson, chief executive of CDP, mentioned that: “This is great news for those companies seizing the opportunity of the low-carbon economy, but the rest need to pick up the pace or risk losing out. The majority of the large corporations we analysed do not yet appear to have the right science-based targets in place to successfully transition their business in line with the Paris agreement, though many have ambitions to take this step in the next two years.”

The fact that firms are not legally obliged to follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement, which demands from countries to take action to keep global warming to no more than 2 OC, is making the business world to move at a slow pace. Thus, many large companies are not contributing to the level that could add up to the effort of reducing greenhouse gas emissions efficiently.

Is progress really happening?

Even if there is an overall increase in gas emissions, the Emissions Gap report shows that global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, cement production, and international transport have stabilized around 35 billion tons CO2 equivalent since 2014.

Among the countries around the world, only Syria has denied joining the Paris agreement and United States has already stated that will leave from this agreement in 2020 which is most likely going to worsen the odds on reducing the gas emissions and maintaining global warning temperature to no more than 2 OC. The latter is driven by the fact that U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas.

China and EU are determined though to show the path to climate sustainability and apparently attempt to reduce CO2 levels even more in order to replace the American contribution. COP23 is crucial as it will be a chance for all the parties to try changing Donald Trump’s mind and recall his decision on withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

All in all, COP23’s role in the climate change will be catalytic as far as the implementation of the Paris rulebook is concerned. The entire world needs a more visionary summit to believe that environmental pledges can and will be done promptly in order to contribute to the decrease of the greenhouse gas emissions.

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