COP26 news: First draft Glasgow agreement expected today

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Artist’s impression of a small Rolls-Royce modular reactor

Rolls-Royce plc

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There are three days left at COP26 and the discussions are entering their home stretch. Everyone is tired and a little fed up, but negotiators are still jostling each other – and in space, satellites help track our greenhouse gas emissions.

The Glasgow Text, v1.0

Tonight the first draft of how nearly 200 countries will step up their ambition on climate change is due to be released.

The text is known as the Cover Decision and will spell out what countries have pledged to review their 2030 climate plans. The content will be crucial in getting the world on track for the goals of keeping global warming to 1.5. ° C and “well below” 2 ° C.

president of COP26 Alok sharma would not be drawn on what the ruling might say. However, he told reporters at a press conference today: “We are making progress at COP26, but we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days. What has been collectively committed goes to a certain extent, but certainly not all the way, to keep 1.5 ° C within reach. “

Another senior official also seemed to be managing expectations. Patricia espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was requested by BBC if the negotiations resulted in all that is needed in terms of both emissions reductions and climate finance. His response: “Of course, this week we won’t be able to solve it. “

Tina Stege, envoy for climate in the Marshall Islands, said New Scientist that the Glasgow agreement must commit countries to release more ambitious plans next year. “The decade of action is now. In order for these things to have an impact, make sense, and actually do what you need them to, you need to start next year. “

In the same way, James murray, the publisher of BusinessGreen, tweeted that there was “growing concern” that the deal was not doing enough.

Promises to date

The main text should be strong, as the other announcements made at the summit did not resolve the issue.

In fact, the the commitments made to date will only limit warming to 2.4 ° C. That’s according to a new analysis from Climate Action Tracker, an independent, non-profit scientific body based in Germany. New scientistAdam Vaughan describes this as “a much darker view” of what the Glasgow summit achieved, compared to last week’s analyzes which suggested we were on the right track for as little as 1.8 ° C warming. The problem is, while many countries have pledged to achieve net zero emissions later this century, there have been few concrete promises of action this decade – which means we’re going to be emitting a lot more carbon dioxide over the next 10 years, stopping a lot more warming.

To find out which countries are doing the most and the least, we can consult the latest edition of the Climate change performance index. This ranking has been produced every year since 2005, and covers 61 countries representing 92% of global emissions. No country is doing enough across the board, as evidenced by the top three places left blank for countries that are successful on all fronts. The best ranked are Denmark, Sweden and Norway. China is also in the top 10, having climbed the rankings by halting the increase in its emissions and expanding and setting ambitious renewable energy targets. Meanwhile, the climate laggards include the United States at 55 (albeit up six places), Australia at 58 and Canada at 61.

It all sounds bleak and frustrating, so it’s worth noting that 2.4 ° C still represents significant progress. Prior to the start of COP26, we were on track for 2.7 ° C, so promises so far (assuming they are kept) will lower total warming by 0.3 ° C. It will make a real difference in the lives of millions of people.

Of course, this is not enough. Governments are supposed to limit warming to 1.5 ° C. A warming of 2.4 ° C would almost double, and is likely to push us through tipping points in the Earth system, leading for example to the irreparable collapse of the Greenland ice sheet in the centuries to come.

Yet here’s a half-full glass way of thinking about this 0.3 ° C improvement. If the next three COPs were each to reduce future emissions by 0.3 ° C, we would be on track for 1.5 ° C. That is to say that if the next COPs go as well as COP26, we will be on the right track for 1.5 ° C by the end of 2024. The word “if” is of course a lot of work in those sentences – but it’s crucial not to get discouraged.

The role of nuclear

The British government has committed £ 210million to support the development of new nuclear reactors. These will be “small modular reactors” or SMR, each capable of supplying 1 million homes. The funding will help engineers at UK aerospace and defense company Rolls-Royce develop designs and support them through the regulatory process. However, there is no real commitment to purchase reactors yet.

The idea behind SMR is that most nuclear power plants are custom-made, which drive up costs – help explain why nuclear power is often so expensive. On the other hand, SMRs are intended to be mass produced, and therefore cheaper.

The UK government is also trying to make nuclear cheaper with a bill called the Nuclear Energy Bill (Funding). This attempts to solve an obvious problem. At present, private companies building nuclear reactors in the UK have to put all the money up front and can only start making money when the power plant is generating electricity. As a result, they charge extremely high prices for electricity. The new program means the government will pay money up front, in exchange for lower electricity prices later – which, in theory, should at least save money.

Nuclear power produces very few greenhouse gas emissions. It also offers a sustained flow of electricity, without the intermittence associated with solar or wind power. For this reason, some argue that nuclear power is essential to help limit dangerous climate change. He is unpopular among environmentalists, thanks to disasters like the Chernobyl collapse in 1986, but the argument is that they are rare and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The poor public image of nuclear power has been aggravated by the Fukushima Daiichi incident in 2011, in which a massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan damaged a nuclear power plant and released radioactive material. In the years that followed, Japan and other countries have started shutting down nuclear reactors – but they have largely replaced them with coal, which releases a lot of greenhouse gases. The fact is that Fukushima was not another Chernobyl: its security systems have proven to be much more effective and the amount of harmful material released was several orders of magnitude smaller. However, most countries, including the UK, are making slow progress towards nuclear power.

The only country that gives him real confidence seems to be China. Last week Bloomberg reported that China is building “at least 150 new reactors over the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35.” It will cost up to $ 440 billion and mean China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest producer of nuclear power later this decade.

What to watch

The draft text of the final agreement. There will be other announcements – including perhaps one on the phase-out of fossil fuel-powered cars – but the basic summit text is the gist. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly back in Glasgow to meet negotiators and push for “”ambitious action”To close the summit.

Quote of the day

“We have a whole generation that is absolutely determined to do this. ” Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the British government, talk to New Scientist. Vallance stressed that, alongside technological change, solving climate change will require behavioral changes on the part of everyone. British astronaut Tim Peake made a similar point, saying the role of government is to “make the green choice the easy choice”.

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