It’s been six months since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its special report on climate change. The report was a wake-up call for countries fighting climate change, stating that the world has twelve years to limit global warming to 1.5C.
According to the report, this means cutting carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and being carbon free by 2050. Indeed, since the release of the report, action has been taken by public and political bodies alike – though they do not always act with the same interests. Students are fighting for their future and political bodies are making more ambitious goals. With this in mind, what exactly has happened since the IPCC released its report?
Since the release of the report last October, many countries have set more aggressive goals to help reach their climate action targets. For instance, the Marshall Islands was the first country to submit new binding climate targets to the UN, just a month after the release of the IPCC report. It has pledged to reduce emissions by 32 per cent by 2025, and 45 percent by 2030 based on 2010 levels. These targets will help the Marshall Islands reach its ultimate goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.
Similarly, the EU’s new climate strategy is to become carbon neutral by 2050. The EU has revised its previous goal of a 40 per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and increased it to 45 per cent. Additionally, the EU was able to reach an agreement on a 37.5 per cent reduction in emissions from vehicles by 2030.
Germany, a major coal consumer, has stated that it will shut down all of its coal-burning plants by 2038. Despite this commitment, Germany will still be unable to meet the EU’s initial 40 per cent emissions goal. Moreover, Germany has also refused to lend its support towards the EU’s net zero climate target. However, it is not alone in refusing to support these targets.
Around the world students have also taken the lead in the fight against climate change. They are protesting their governments on Fridays to take serious action against global warming. Greta Thunberg, the inspiration behind the protests, recently reiterated the urgent need to take action.
While some nations are beginning to take serious action, not all countries are on board. As mentioned, Germany has refused to support the EU’s net zero climate target and will not be meeting its climate targets. Ireland, will similarly miss its emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2030. Furthermore, Ireland is still set on investing in fossil fuels and gas extraction beyond 2030.
France has agreed to the EU’s net zero strategy, however it is going through a period of social unrest due to President Emmanuel Macron’s gas tax. While the tax was touted as a means to reduce pollution, it also brought pre-existing tensions to a tipping point. Climate change exacerbates inequalities, which must be addressed.
Meanwhile, in Finland, the Finns, a right-wing populist party, recently won the second highest number of seats on a platform against climate action, at a time when climate action is more crucial than ever.
Across the Atlantic, a recent report has stated that Canada is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world, and that many of the effects are “probably irreversible”. Moreover, it is unlikely that Canada will be able to reach its Paris targets by 2030.
In China, power producers have requested the government to allow for the development of 300-500 coal power plants by 2030. This would not only obliterate any chance of keeping global warming below 1.5C, but it would also challenge the upper limit of 2C. Conversely China has also pledged to stop its rise in emissions by 2030.
Although some countries are taking positive action against global warming, the imminent danger of global warming requires international collaboration to work towards mitigating further warming. Reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energies, and divesting from fossil fuels is only one part of the fight. Every day, the effects of pollution and global warming are impacting ecosystems, humans and animals alike.
For instance, a study has shown that air pollution from vehicles causes approximately 4 million children to develop asthma each year globally. Vehicular pollution is threatening the health of children everywhere. Just last year, a girl’s death was linked to illegal levels of air pollution associated with traffic pollution in South London, yet new housing development has been approved in the same area. Potential residents are being warned to keep their windows closed.
Other forms of pollution are also being felt around the world. Microplastics are being found everywhere, even in “supposedly pristine places” such as the Pyrenees Mountains. Microplastics have also been found as water contaminants in several Eurasian countries.
Population growth and climate change are threatening England’s water supply. The chief executive of the Environment Agency has stated that England is likely to experience water shortages in 25 years.
Climate analysts at Carbon Brief have calculated the allowable emission of carbon for successive generations to keep global warming between 1.5C and 2C. They have concluded that youth and children born today must keep their carbon footprint between less than one-sixth to one-tenth of their grandparents’ carbon footprint.
The threat of global warming is very real. Irreparable changes have already been made to the earth due to climate change. While there are countries working towards admirable goals, mitigating global warming is a collective issue. It requires the participation of all that are involved. With only a few countries setting goals to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030, keeping global warming to 1.5C will be a hard fought battle. Moreover, the fight against global warming is not limited to cutting emissions and picking up plastic cups. For there to be a lasting effect, fundamental changes in consumption need to be made and inequalities need to be addressed. It is time for governments to listen to the protesting students and enact change.