Pledges vs Actions

You might notice that when political or business leaders make pledges that would have positive consequences for our world, they select far-off dates – 2030, 2050, 2060.  The cynic in me assumes they say these positive pledges to boost their image, knowing that people forget what they’ve said within a few hours … as the daily demands of life capture their attention.

And by the time those pledges are seen as bogus, those leaders are long gone, and not held accountable.  But the problems are not long gone, and have likely increased in severity over time, as this report states.  I’ll add comments afterwards.

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Flurry of emissions pledges still not enough to meet global climate goals

 

Kate Abnett, Valerie Volcovici

Reuters

Aug 5, 2021

 

Despite a recent flurry of new national emissions pledges, the world is still far away from preventing catastrophic climate change, experts say – noting that major polluters including China and Russia have yet to submit revised plans before a major U.N. climate summit in November.

Nearly half of the 200 nations that signed the 2015 Paris climate accord failed to submit new pledges by a UN deadline of the end of July. Saudi Arabia and India are among about 90 countries that have yet to detail how they will beef up their previous targets.  Saleemul Huq, chair of the expert advisory group of the Climate Vulnerable Forum of 48 countries, said:

 

“It’s abysmal. It’s absolutely unacceptable.

What the countries are doing or not doing

is what matters.  And what they’re doing

is not keeping us below 1.5 degrees.”

 

Huq added that countries’ progress should be measured by the real-world action they are taking to cut emissions – not just their targets for future years.

Countries agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement to attempt to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold scientists say would head off the worst impacts of warming. To do that, scientists say, the world needs to cut global emissions in half by 2030, and to net-zero by 2050.

The new pledges submitted through July barely moved the needle toward that goal, with many of them from developing countries with a small carbon footprint.

 

Countries responsible for over half

(53%) of current global emissions either

have yet to submit a new or updated

NDC, said the World Resources Institute.

 

WRI, which tracks national climate pledges, estimates the total updated pledges to date would reduce 2030 emissions by around 2.3 (gigatons) Gt of CO2-equivalent compared with the pledges countries initially made after the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed. Today, countries emit around 50 Gt of emissions per year.

Since March, both the United States and the European Union – the world’s second- and third-biggest emitters after China – have set tougher emissions-cutting targets. Countries that missed the July 30 deadline for updating their climate plans, called “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs, are now under intense pressure to do so before the U.N. holds its next global climate conference in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

China said it plans to announce an updated NDC before November, after pledging last year to reach net zero emissions by 2060. The Group of 20 rich nations made a similar promise last month to update their NDCs in time for the conference.  Taryn Fransen, a senior fellow at WRI. ‘DO THEIR FAIR SHARE’ said:

 

“Any big change that we will see

is going to come from those major

emitters that haven’t submitted yet.”

 

While the global emissions trend is currently projected to flatten by 2030, thanks to pledges made so far, it would need more ambitious targets from many of the world’s larger economies in order to decrease, said Niklas Hohne of the New Climate Institute, a European think tank that tracks countries’ climate commitments.  Hohne said:

 

“This global gap is huge.”

 

Closing that gap would require not just more bold pledges, but also for some countries to overshoot their targets in coming years.

Countries whose updated pledges “failed to raise ambition,” such as Australia, Brazil and Mexico, would also need to boost their commitments, said Alex Scott at climate change think tank E3G.

The November conference is seen as a crucial chance to clinch deals, for example, toward phasing out coal or financing forest protections or infrastructure adaptation. But striking those agreements will be tougher if the world’s big emitters are not committed to cutting emissions fast.

Bigger economies with higher emissions levels need to “do their fair share,” said Carlos Fuller, lead negotiator on climate change for the Alliance of Small Island States. In the past, emerging economies like India and China have resisted tough action that might constrain their economic development.

But as climate change delivers weather extremes, from deadly heat waves to enormous wildfires, some countries that are especially vulnerable say they are getting fed up with others dragging their feet.

 

“The delay has been incredibly frustrating,”

 

said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, where sea level rise threatens to inundate the land. The country was the first to submit a new NDC in November 2018.

Stege said the pressure is now firmly on G20 countries.  She said:

 

“All eyes are now going to be on a few members.”

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When faced with solving a problem, I often look for analogies, asking …

 

Who has solved this problem before?

 

For example, money for maintenance of government buildings or structures, seems more difficult to secure than for new buildings or bridges, as patching a roof that might leak doesn’t give elected officials much to point to as achievements under their administration.  Yet, statistical data consistently shows that preventive maintenance is far less expensive than waiting for a crisis to happen, then rushing in to fix it.

However … at the first sign that your home’s roof may soon leak – causing damage to its structure and your personal holdings – you promptly act to fix the problem.  It’s personal.  You feel the problem, so you prudently move to solve it.

 

The Marshall Islands in the Pacific – where

sea level rise threatens to inundate the

land – was the first to submit a new NDC.

 

For them, the problems of climate change are very personal.

I also recall a brief dialogue from the film, “Shoes of the Fisherman,” in which the new pope, dressed as a priest, took a stroll out into Rome and was asked by a doctor to get some medicine for her dying patient.  After doing so, the doctor said the patient was now doing better, and the pope asked the dying man’s friend if he could help.  The response he got:

 

“The dying is easy.  It is

the living that defeats us.”

 

On their way back to the street, the doctor asked the pope,

 

“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?”

 

The pope responded with …

 

“Yes, I suppose you have.  Just think of

me as a priest you sent to the pharmacist.”

 

To which the doctor responded …

 

“What are you doing here like this?”

 

And the pope replied …

 

“Oh, I had to get out. I just had to

get out. I wanted to hear all these

noises and watch people living,

just simply living.  I was hungry

for it.  Can you understand that?”

 

And the doctor responded with …

 

“I wish I felt life was

as appetizing as that.”

 

And how is all this dialogue relevant to pledges and preventive maintenance actions for solving problems of global warming?  As I often do, I asked D, the entity my spouse channels, for comments …

 

“When people are fearful, they

pull in and want to protect what

they currently have.  They dig

their heels in and refuse change.

 

“When people feel joy, they’re

willing to change, and feel com-

passion for others.  They look out

for others, not just themselves.”

 

If I’m enjoying life with a good job and living in a nice home, why should I go out of my way to spend money to help multitudes I don’t even know by doing things – such as planting trees, driving an electric car, or adding PV panels to my roof – that clearly inhibit global warming and contribute to a better life on Earth for everyone?

Oddly, perhaps, but I think the solution to global warming has to begin not with pledges to do something by some far-off date, but with each of us doing things that give us greater joy in our lives.  Then we may personally feel the need to do things for others … our friends and neighbors, and … even people in the Marshall Islands and elsewhere who we’ve never seen.

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