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Climate change – collective action or collective suicide

‘Collective action or collective suicide’ was the grim warning that UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, gave when addressing the 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. He was referring to the current projections by the UN Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Office, which predicted on current trends, an annual global temperature rise of 2.5C which is substantially higher than the 1.5C limit agreed in Paris in 2015 to avoid irreversible changes in climate.

The evidence is troubling. In the UK, in each month so far this year, the average temperature has been above the long term average. In Europe, average temperatures have increased at more than twice the global rate or an average of 0.5C per decade over the past 30 years. The effects of this heating have included droughts, wild fires and melting of ice sheets and glaciers affecting more than 500,000 people.

Though Europe has decreased its greenhouse gas emissions associated with burning fossil fuels by 30% since 1990, this is clearly not sufficient and further cuts will be required primarily by using energy more efficiently and increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar electricity, wind and geothermal.

The good news is that 92 countries associated with 80% of greenhouse gas emissions have set a target of net zero by 2050 including the UK. In addition the loss of forests is decreasing as they are important sinks of greenhouse gases. Moreover Brazil’s incoming president Luiz da Silva has pledged to halt destruction of his country’s rain forests, the world’s largest .

The global requirement is to halve the emissions of these gases by 2030 to stay within the 1.5C limit and this involves primarily the developed counties who are responsible the greatest amount of energy usage and emissions.

In addition the Conference discussed two other issues

  • Compensation for loss and damage inflicted by the developed countries on the developing countries who use much less energy;
  • Providing funding for converting energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources

The annual target for these funds is $100 billion but this amount has yet to be achieved. The Conference has succeeded in highlighting what needs to be done and it is now up to the politicians and us to implement actions which will preserve the planet for future generations.
Rayner Mayer



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