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COP 27 - UN report warns climate change is accelerating

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The world is naturally still focusing on the ongoing health pandemic but another issue of vital importance: confronting climate change. Global warming has, already this year, been blamed for a series of natural disasters across the world and a recent landmark UN report warned that climate change is occurring far faster than forecast, writes Nikolay Barekov, journalist and former MEP.

In November, the UK, together with Italy, will host an event many believe to be the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control. 

This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP 26. With the UK as president, COP 26 takes place in Glasgow.

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In the run up to COP 26 the UK says it is working with every nation to reach agreement on how to tackle climate change. More than 190 world leaders will arrive in Scotland and, joining them, will be tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens for twelve days of talks.

Nikolay Barekov

The event has set four key “goals” in tackling climate action, one of whichis to secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

Under this objective, 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.

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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 and encourage investment in renewables.

EU legislation requires member states to adopt national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for the 2021-2030 period in order to contribute to the EU's binding climate and energy targets for 2030. Each individual final NECP has been assessed by the European Commission and the assessments were published in October 2020.

One of the European countries most badly affected by climate change already this year is Turkey which has seen everything from  flash floods to forest fires and drought.

Turkey is bearing the brunt of increasingly frequent disasters blamed on climate change and wildfires have led to several deaths since late July across southern coastal regions, ravaging forests and turning villages to ash. So far this year, the country has also experienced deadly floods in the northeast followed an arid spell that dried up dams, endangering water supplies.

Experts and environmentally-conscious politicians put ratifying the 2015 Paris Agreement adopted by 196 countries on top of Turkey's to-do list. Turkey is one of only six nations, including Iraq and Libya, yet to formally approve the accord.

Climate Action Tracker, a think tank that evaluates national emissions reduction plans, said Turkey's effort towards the accord's goals was "critically insufficient".

A COP26 goal is the phase out of coal but fossil fuels still made up 83 percent of Turkey's energy supply in 2019. Even so, the International Energy Agency this year praised Ankara's efforts to diversify its energy mix, with "impressive" renewable energy growth.

Elsewhere, Bulgaria submitted its final NECP in March 2020.

Bulgaria's NECP identifies several reasons for the reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). These include: structural changes in industry, such as the decline in energy-intensive enterprises, an increased share of hydro and nuclear electricity, implementation of energy efficiency measures in the housing sector, and a shift from solid and liquid fuels to natural gas in energy consumption.

However, according to the country report under the 2020 European Semester, Bulgaria is the most GHG intensive economy in the European Union, and – like Turkey -  coal is still the main source of energy.

For Romania, the most relevant possible impacts of climate change are said to be modification of vegetation periods, displacement of ecosystems, prolonged droughts smf floods.

Romania’s response includes setting-up an energy efficiency investment fund (FIEE) financed by private, public and EU funds.

The Romanian draft integrated National Energy and Climate Plan is structured along the  EU’s Energy Union dimensions and aims at a holistic approach.

A European commission spokesman said this “provides a good basis for the development of a complete and coherent final plan.”

Another EU country badly hit in recently years by climate change is Greece.

In 2018, the country suffered a devastating fire in Mati, eastern Attica, that cost 102 lives. The Greek premier said at the time that “the destruction shook the Greek public deeply.”

Extreme conditions were said to have largely contributed to the ferocity of the fire and the Greek government has warned that climate change is not an issue that be put off for a few decade.

So far, the Greek government’s response to the issue has been to adopt a new national policy for energy and the climate.

This includes a proposed ban on single-use plastic, the shutdown of lignite-fired power plants by 2028 and the increase in the share of renewable resources to 35 percent by 2030.

A Greek government spokesman said it has put the management of climate change fallout high on its policy agenda,partly because Greece's economic future is linked to its ability to protect its unique natural environment.

Greece, he noted, is “fully committed” to the COP26 goals and also to the Paris Agreement and the UN Agenda for 2030, with its 17 global Sustainable Development Goals.

The recent UN report warns we’ll likely reach 1.5 degrees warming in the next one or two decades unless we take immediate action

This latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a stark warning from scientists around the world that human activity is damaging the planet at an alarming rate. 

The UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency Anne-Marie Trevelyan said, “The impacts of climate change are already affecting lives and livelihoods around the world, with increasing frequency and severity. Alongside the need to drive down emissions, this report rings the alarm to urgently help vulnerable communities adapt and build resilience - in developed and developing countries alike.”

Nikolay Barekov is political journalist and presenter, former CEO of TV7 Bulgaria and a former MEP for Bulgaria and former deputy chairman of the ECR group in the European Parliament.

Climate change

Climate change: Raise global ambitions to achieve strong outcome at COP26

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The Environment Committee calls on all countries to implement a green recovery and increase their 2030 climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement.

Ahead of the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021, on Tuesday the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee has adopted its input to the COP26, with 60 votes for, 15 votes against and three abstentions.

In their resolution, MEPs express concern that the targets announced in Paris in 2015 would result in warming well above three degrees by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. They say that the EU must remain a world leader in the fight against climate change and that MEPs will work to ensure that the EU’s “Fit for 55 in 2030” climate package is fully in line with the Paris Agreement.

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To accelerate the pace of climate action, MEPs wants the EU to support a five-year timeframe for all countries instead of the current ten-year plan. They also say that all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies should be phased out in the EU by 2025 and call on all other countries to take similar measures.

MEPs recall that biodiversity plays a crucial role in enabling humans to combat and adapt to global warming and stress that nature-based solutions are win-win solutions, ones which involve protecting, restoring and sustainably managing ecosystems.

G20 must lead the way

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MEPs say that all G20 nations should show global leadership and commit to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. They also call on the Commission to create an international climate club with other major greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters with the aim of setting common standards and raising ambition across the globe through a common carbon border adjustment mechanism.

They welcome the return of the US to the Paris Agreement and President Biden’s commitment to cut US GHG emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005. MEPs expect concrete policy measures and financing to meet this goal.

While MEPs acknowledge China’s willingness to be a constructive partner in global climate negotiations, it is concerned with the country’s dependency on coal and underlines that China’s climate targets should cover all GHG emissions and not only carbon dioxide emissions.

More financial support to fight climate change

MEPs say that developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year for developing countries, increasing that amount from 2025, when emerging economies should also start to contribute. A roadmap outlining each developed country’s fair contribution to this financing plan should be agreed. They also want to ensure that all developing countries can participate in COP26 in spite of COVID-19.

Next steps

The resolution will be voted by all MEPs during the plenary session 18-21 October.

A delegation from Parliament led by Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR) will be in Glasgow from 8-13 November.

Background

Parliament has been pushing for more ambitious EU climate and biodiversity legislation and declared a climate emergency on 28 November 2019. In June 2021, the European Climate Law was adopted by Parliament. It transforms the European Green Deal’s political commitment to EU climate neutrality by 2050 into a binding obligation for the EU and member states. It also increases the EU’s target for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 40% to at least 55%, compared to 1990 level. In July 2021, the Commission presented the “Fit for 55 in 2030” package in order to enable the EU to reach the more ambitious 2030-target.

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Climate Action: EU-China joint press communiqué on the fight against climate change ahead of COP26

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Following their second high-level environment and climate dialogue on 27 September 2021, Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China Han Zheng reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and a successful outcome of the COP26 in Glasgow. In a joint press release, they stressed the urgency to act immediately, notably in the light of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They also confirmed that that the high-level environment and climate dialogue will continue to be a key platform between the EU and China to enhance actions and bilateral cooperation on environment and in the fight against climate change. During their last meeting, they discussed various aspects of the global climate and biodiversity crises, with a focus on the forthcoming UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow and on COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming. More details on the discussion are available here

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Major climate conference comes to Glasgow in November

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Leaders from 196 countries are meeting in Glasgow in November for a major climate conference. They are being asked to agree action to limit climate change and its effects, like rising sea levels and extreme weather. More than 120 politicians and heads of state are expected for the three-day world leaders' summit at the start of the conference. The event, known as COP26, has four main objections, or “goals”, including one that goes under the heading, 'work together to deliver' writes journalist and former MEP Nikolay Barekov.

The idea behind the fourth COP26 goals is that the world can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

So, at COP26 leaders are encouraged to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and also accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

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Businesses are also keen to see action taken in Glasgow. They want clarity that governments are moving strongly towards achieving net-zero emissions globally across their economies.

Before looking at what four EU countries are doing to meet the fourth COP26 goal, it  is perhaps worth rewinding briefly to December 2015 when world leaders gathered in Paris to map out a vision for a zero-carbon future. The result was the Paris Agreement, an historic breakthrough in the collective response to climate change. The Agreement set long-term goals to guide all nations: limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and make efforts to hold warming to 1.5 degrees C; strengthen resilience and enhance abilities to adapt to climate impacts and direct financial investment into low emissions and climate-resilient development.

To meet these long-term goals, negotiators set out a timetable in which each country is expected to submit updated national plans every five years for limiting emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. These plans are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

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Countries gave themselves three years to agree on the implementation guidelines — colloquially called the Paris Rulebook — to execute the Agreement.

This website has looked closely at what four EU member states – Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey – have, and are, doing to tackle climate change and, specifically, on meeting the objectives of Goal No 4.

According to a spokesman for the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water, Bulgaria is “over-achieved” when it comes to some climate targets at national level for 2016:

Take, for example, the share of biofuels which, according to latest estimates, accounts for some 7.3% of total energy consumption in the country’s transport sector. Bulgaria has, it is claimed, also exceeded national targets for the share of renewable energy sources in its gross final energy consumption.

Like most countries, it is being impacted by global warming and forecasts suggest that monthly temperatures are expected to increase by 2.2°C in the 2050s, and 4.4°C by the 2090s.

While some progress has been made in certain areas, much more still has to be done, according to a major 2021 study on  Bulgaria by the World Bank.

Among a long list of recommendations by the  Bank to Bulgaria is one that specifically targets Goal No 4. It urges Sophia to “increase participation of the public, scientific institutions, women and local communities in planning and management, accounting for approaches and methods of gender equity, and increase urban resilience.”

In nearby Romania, there is also a firm commitment to fighting climate change and pursuing low carbon development.

The EU's binding climate and energy legislation for 2030 requires Romania and the other 26 member states to adopt national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for the 2021-2030 period. Last October 2020, the European Commission published an assessment for each NECP.

Romania's final NECP said that more than half (51%) of Romanians expect national governments to tackle climate change.

Romania generates 3% of the EU-27's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduced emissions faster than the EU average between 2005 and 2019, says the commission.

With several energy-intensive industries present in Romania, the country's carbon intensity is much higher than the EU average, but also “decreasing rapidly.”

Energy industry emissions in the country fell by 46% between 2005 and 2019, reducing the sector's share of total emissions by eight percentage points. But emissions from the transport sector increased by 40% over the same period, doubling that sector's share of total emissions.

Romania still relies to a great extent on fossil fuels but renewables, along with nuclear energy and gas are seen as essential to the transition process. Under EU effort-sharing legislation, Romania was allowed to increase emissions until 2020 and must reduce these emissions by 2% relative to 2005 by 2030. Romania achieved a 24.3% share of renewable energy sources in 2019 and the country's 2030 target of a 30.7% share is focused mainly on wind, hydro, solar and fuels from biomass.

A source at Romania’s embassy to the EU said that energy efficiency measures centre on heating supply and building envelopes along with industrial modernisation.

One of the EU nations most directly impacted by climate change is Greece which has this summer seen several devastating forest fires which have ruined lives and hit its vital tourist trade.

 Like most EU countries, Greece supports a carbon neutrality objective for 2050. Greece's climate mitigation targets are largely shaped by EU targets and legislation. Under EU effort sharing, Greece is expected to reduce non-EU ETS (emission trading system) emissions by 4% by 2020 and by 16% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Partly in response to wildfires that burned more than 1,000 square kilometers (385 square miles) of forest on the island of  Evia and in southern Greece fires, the Greek government has recently created a new ministry to address the impact of climate change and named former European Union commissioner Christos Stylianides as minister.

Stylianides, 63, served as commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management between 2014 and 2019 and will head firefighting, disaster relief and policies to adapt to rising temperatures resulting from climate change. He said: “Disaster prevention and preparedness is the most effective weapon we have.”

Greece and Romania are the most active among European Union member states in Southeast Europe on climate change issues, while Bulgaria is still trying to catch up with much of the EU, according to a report on the implementation of the European Green Deal published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In its recommendations on how countries can add value to the impact of the European Green Deal, the ECFR says that Greece, if it wants to establish itself as a green champion, should team up with the “less ambitious” Romania and Bulgaria, which share some of its climate-related challenges. This, the report says, could push Romania and Bulgaria to adopt best green transition practices and join Greece in climate initiatives.

Another of the four countries we’ve put under the spotlight –Turkey – has also been badly hit by the consequences of global warming, with a series of devastating floods and fires this summer. Extreme weather incidents have been on the rise since 1990, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service (TSMS). In 2019,Turkey had 935 extreme weather incidents, the highest in recent memory,” she noted.

Partly as a direct response, the Turkish government has now introduced new measures to curb the impact of climate change, including the Fight Against Climate Change Declaration.

Again, this directly targets Goal No. 4 of the upcoming COP26 conference in  Scotland as the declaration is the result of discussions with - and contributions from - scientists and nongovernmental organizations to Turkish government efforts to address the issue.

The declaration involves an action plan for an adaptation strategy to global phenomenon, support for environmentally friendly production practices and investments, and the recycling of waste, among other steps.

On renewable energy Ankara also plans to increase electricity generation from those sources in the coming years and to set up a Climate Change Research Centre. This is designed to shape policies on the issue and conduct studies, along with a climate change platform where studies and data on climate change will be shared – again all in line with COP26’s Goal No 4.

Conversely, Turkey is yet to sign the 2016 Paris Agreement but First lady Emine Erdoğan has been a champion of environmental causes.

Erdoğan said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to the fight against climate change and that several key steps now need to be taken on the issue, from switching to renewable energy sources to cutting dependency on fossil fuels and redesigning cities.

In a nod to COP26’s fourth goal, she has also underlined that the role of individuals is more important.

Looking ahead to COP26, European commission president Ursula von der Leyen says that “when it comes to climate change and the nature crisis, Europe can do a lot”.

Speaking on 15 September in a state of the union address to MEPs, she said: “And it will support others. I am proud to announce today that the EU will double its external funding for biodiversity, in particular for the most vulnerable countries. But Europe cannot do it alone. 

“The COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth for the global community. Major economies – from the US to Japan – have set ambitions for climate neutrality in 2050 or shortly after. These need now to be backed up by concrete plans in time for Glasgow. Because current commitments for 2030 will not keep global warming to 1.5°C within reach.Every country has a responsibility. The goals that President Xi has set for China are encouraging. But we call for that same leadership on setting out how China will get there. The world would be relieved if they showed they could peak emissions by mid-decade - and move away from coal at home and abroad.”

She added: “But while every country has a responsibility, major economies do have a special duty to the least developed and most vulnerable countries. Climate finance is essential for them - both for mitigation and adaptation.In Mexico and in Paris, the world committed to provide $100 billion dollars a year until 2025. We deliver on our commitment. Team Europe contributes $25bn dollars per year. But others still leave a gaping hole towards reaching the global target.”

The president went on, “Closing that gap will increase the chance of success at Glasgow. My message today is that Europe is ready to do more. We will now propose an additional €4bn for climate finance until 2027. But we expect the United States and our partners to step up too. Closing the climate finance gap together – the US and the EU – would be a strong signal for global climate leadership. It is time to deliver.”

So, with all eyes firmly fixed on Glasgow, the question for some is whether Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey will help trail a blaze for the rest of Europe in tackling what many still regard as the biggest threat to mankind.

Nikolay Barekov is a political journalist and TV presenter, former CEO of TV7 Bulgaria and a former MEP for Bulgaria and former deputy chairman of the ECR group in the European Parliament.

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