COP 28 | Climate summit agrees to leave fossil fuels behind: will this be met?

This year’s COP28 climate summit reached a historic agreement last week for the world to transition away from oil, gas and coal, a major decision taken by nearly 200 countries during nearly 30 years of climate talks.

But will countries keep their word and move away from global warming fossil fuels towards greener energy? It is impossible to answer what will happen in the future, but a look at history can shed some light on what we can expect.

Here are some examples of what some climate summits have agreed to and how that has turned out over time.

Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions

The third climate summit was held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, one of the warmest years on record in the 20th century.

The agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, called for 41 high-emitting countries around the world and the European Union to reduce their emissions by just over 5% compared to 1990 levels.

Emissions reductions can come from many places, from deploying green energy like wind and solar that produce zero emissions to making things that run cleaner, like gas-powered vehicles.

Despite agreeing to reduce emissions, it was not until 2005 that countries finally agreed to act under the Kyoto Protocol. The United States and China (the top emitters then and now) did not sign the agreement.

With regard to fulfilling the promises made, we cannot say that the Kyoto Protocol was successful. Emissions have increased dramatically since then. At the time, 1997 was the hottest year on record since pre-industrial times. This record was broken in 1998, as happened more than a dozen years ago. Perhaps this will be 2023.

But the Kyoto Protocol is still considered a landmark moment in the fight against climate change because it was the first time that many countries acknowledged the problem and committed to working to solve it.

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Peak of failure: Copenhagen 2009

At the time of the 2009 conference in Denmark, the world was peaking at the hottest decade on record, which has since been surpassed.

The summit is widely seen as a failure in the impasse between developed and developing countries over cutting emissions and whether poor countries can use fossil fuels to grow their economies. However, he saw an important promise: providing money for countries to transition to clean energy.

Rich countries promised to direct $100 billion annually to developing countries for green technologies by 2020, but did not reach $100 billion until the early 2020s, sparking criticism from both developing countries and environmental activists.

By 2022, the OECD said rich countries may have finally met or even exceeded the target, but Oxfam, a group focused on anti-poverty efforts, said 70% of the funding would likely go into loans. This actually led to an increase in the debt crisis in developing countries.

As climate change worsens, experts say the promised funds are not enough. Research published by climate economist Nicholas Stern finds that developing countries will likely need $2 trillion for climate action each year by 2030.

The Paris Agreement is the successor to Kyoto

It wasn’t until 2015 when nearly 200 countries adopted a global pact to combat climate change that called on the world to collectively reduce greenhouse gases. But they decided that it would not be binding, so countries that did not comply could not see consequences.

The Paris Agreement is widely considered the United Nations’ greatest achievement in efforts to combat climate change. It was agreed eight years ago to rapturous applause in the plenary session. Countries have agreed to keep temperature rises “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

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It is true that Paris’s legacy lives on, and the goal of limiting temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius remains central to climate discussions. Scientists agree that this threshold must be maintained because every tenth of a degree of warming brings more catastrophic consequences, in the form of extreme weather events, on an already hot planet.

The world has not exceeded the limit set by the Paris Agreement (it has warmed by about 1.1 or 1.2 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the nineteenth century), but it is currently on track to reach it, unless radical cuts in emissions are made quickly.

Glasgow: COP puts coal in the spotlight

Six years after the Paris Agreement, global warming had reached such a critical point that negotiators were seeking to recommit to the goal of limiting global warming to levels agreed in 2015.

Average temperatures were already 1.1°C (1.9°F) higher than in pre-industrial times.

After last-minute disagreements over the language of the final document, the countries agreed to “phase out” coal, a weaker idea than the original idea of ​​“phasing out.” It prompted India and China, two emerging economies that rely heavily on coal, to moderate terms.

Burning coal is responsible for more emissions than any other fossil fuel, about 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Burning oil and gas is also an important source of emissions.

So far, countries have failed to adhere to the Glasgow Agreement. Emissions from coal have risen slightly, and the major countries that use it have not yet begun to abandon the dirtier fossil fuels.

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India is a good example. It relies on coal for more than 70% of its power generation and plans to significantly expand its coal-fired power generation capacity over the next sixteen months.

Sharm El Sheikh losses and damages

In the climate talks that took place last year in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh, countries agreed for the first time to establish a fund to help poor countries recover from the effects of climate change.

Just months after devastating floods in Pakistan that killed nearly 2,000 people and caused losses of more than $3.2 billion, COP27 delegates decided to establish a loss and damage fund to cover destroyed homes, flooded land and loss of income from damaged crops due to climate change. Awad.

After disagreements over what the fund should look like, the fund was officially established on the first day of this year’s talks in Dubai. More than $700 million has already been pledged. The pledges (and the amounts countries choose to commit to) are voluntary.

Climate experts say the pledges are only a fraction of the billions of dollars needed to address climate-driven extreme weather events such as hurricanes, sea level rise, floods and droughts as climate change and temperatures increase.

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This article is part of a series produced under the Climate Journalism Program of India, a collaboration between The Associated Press, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security and the Press Trust of India.

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