Negotiators from 200 nations are convening in Poland this week to discuss action on climate change.
The conference, known as COP24, commenced a day early due to the pressing need for progress. It is the first climate meeting to be held since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) reported that global warming must not exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, to limit the risk of events such as drought, floods, and heatwaves. To achieve this, global CO2 emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030 (in comparison to 2010) and reach net-zero by 2050. The world economy is expected to double in the next 25 years, whilst carbon output must be reduced.
Under the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, countries set out plans to reduce emissions. This week’s COP24 is about making sure that action has been taken, while also presenting an opportunity to build on existing targets.
Poland’s Environment Minister, Michał Kurtyka, has officially taken over the role of the COP Presidency for the year. Poland, which currently generates 80% of its electricity from coal, plans a transition that will see coal generation reduce to 60% of the mix by 2030 and 35% by 2040.
The country is seeking a “just transition” for fossil fuel industries, to support communities that are reliant on the industry.
In the UK, data from BEIS shows that GDP has decoupled from GHG emissions, demonstrating that growth can occur while emissions reduce. The CEO of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), Chris Stark, has said that this is now the precondition of a modern economy. However, some commentators have raised concerns that traditional inventories do not include emissions associated with imported goods and, therefore, can be misleading.
The UK is on track to outperform interim carbon budgets out to 2022, with emissions already 43% below 1990 levels in 2016. However, future targets will be more challenging. Emissions from power have fallen fast, but the other sectors remain flat, with transport being the biggest single emitter.
Further to the publication of the IPPC report, the UK government has asked the CCC for advice on whether to adopt a 2050 target of netzero emissions. Through the Climate Change Act, the UK has already committed to reducing emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
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