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Climate Change

Analysis: Despite COP28 Deal On Fossil Fuels, 1.5 Degrees Celsius Goal Likely Out Of Reach

Scientists say even if the fossil fuels are phased out, it’s impossible to reach the ultimate goal of holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius

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Analysis-Despite COP28 deal on fossil fuels, 1.5C goal likely out of reach
The deal made in Dubai, called the UAE Consensus, saw the world commit to transitioning away from fossil fuels

Dubai: A deal for the world to transition away from fossil fuels was hailed as a historic achievement on Wednesday (December 13) at the U.N. climate summit in Dubai, but there’s a good chance it won’t achieve its ultimate goal – holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. For months, COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber had described that 1.5C limit – first stated in the 2015 Paris Agreement – as his “North Star” or guiding principle for the summit. Scientists say that a global temperature rise beyond 1.5C above the preindustrial average will trigger catastrophic and irreversible impacts, from melting ice sheets to the collapse of ocean currents.

But year after year, that target slips further away – with the world’s planet-warming emissions still rising, and temperatures hitting new heights.

This year will be the hottest ever on record, with the global average for 2023 a sweltering 1.46C above preindustrial levels.

Also Read: Historic Deal On A ‘Transition Away From Fossil Fuels’, Adopted At COP28

In terms of global warming, which is measured in terms of decades, the world has experienced nearly 1.2C (2.2F) of warming.

The deal made in Dubai, called the UAE Consensus, would see the world commit to transitioning away from “fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner … so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

But scientists said that, while the pact was unprecedented, it still wasn’t enough for that outcome to be realized.

James Dyke, an earth systems scientist at the University of Exeter in Britain, said,

It’s a landmark result because it’s the first time we’ve said we’re going to reduce fossil fuel use. But you can forget about 1.5C.

Too Little, Too Late

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main scientific body which informs the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, has said that limiting warming to 1.5C with no or limited overshoot would require rapidly cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, the world needs to cut its emissions from 2019 levels by as much as 43% in the next six years, 60% by 2035 and reach net zero by 2050 in order to prevent compounding impacts, such as thawing permafrost which releases long-trapped greenhouse gases, triggering even more warming.

The IPCC declined to comment on the outcome of COP28.

Also Read: Historic ‘UAE Consensus’ Sets New Standards For Global Climate Action

The world posted record high greenhouse gas emissions in 2022, rising 1.2% above 2021, according to the 2023 U.N. Emissions Gap Report.

The UAE Consensus does not commit the world to phasing out oil and gas, nor to near-term timelines for transitioning away from fossil fuels. Climate scientist Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania said,

It’s like promising your doctor that you will ‘transition away from donuts’ after being diagnosed with diabetes.

If countries are to have even a 50-50 chance of limiting warming to 1.5C, they can emit only another 250 billion metric tons or so of carbon dioxide. At current emissions levels, that will be met in just six years, according to an October 2023 study in the journal Nature Climate Change. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University said,

This mandate is still not even close to what’s needed to accomplish the goals we agreed on in Paris in 2015.

This is true for high-emitting developed countries who also haven’t committed to greater support for developing countries in the energy transition, she said.

The UAE Consensus also calls on countries to accelerate new technologies, which could include “abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage” (CCUS).

This means the world could continue using coal, oil and gas, provided they can capture those emissions. Critics say the technology remains expensive and unproven at scale, and worry that it will now be used to justify continued drilling. Mr Dyke said,

Sultan Al-Jaber and everybody else … they are committing to an overshoot scenario. The plan is we’re going to exceed 1.5C quite significantly, and then it’s going to be the deployment of CCUS over the rest of the century to drag temperatures back down.

That’s not necessarily the fault of COP28 alone, scientists said. The 1.5C goal was dead on arrival already in Paris in 2015, without the summit producing a clear plan back then to rapidly rein in fossil fuel use right away, they said.

Where’s The Beef?

Despite the COP28 Presidency’s efforts to highlight food security as a pressing threat, the UAE Consensus does not attempt to tackle the sizeable emissions that come from agriculture and waste.

Farmlands, livestock and landfills account for one-third of the world’s planet-warming emissions.

But they’re also harder to bring down, with limited solutions on offer. Agricultural scientist Emile Frison of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems said,

Even if fossil fuels were phased out, if you don’t tackle food systems, it’s impossible to reach 1.5C.

The COP28 talks also saw a raft of new voluntary commitments, ranging from tripling renewables to reining in methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

Also Read: India Calls For Implementation Of Paris Agreement With Focus On Equity And Climate Justice At COP28

An assessment by the International Energy Agency found that, even if those results were fully delivered, it would only close about one-third of the emissions gap to limit warming to 1.5C.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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