As the United Nations climate summit opened in Glasgow, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a surprise positive announcement: a big net-zero target. The world cheered at the planet’s third-largestA greenhouse gas emitter joins net-zero and the move is made global headlines.
Fast forward to the final hours of COP26. India almost halted talks. It was. demanded a key commitment in the Glasgow agreement be watered down: that a pledge to “phase out” coal be weakened to just “phase down” the fossil fuel.
China supported India’s holdout. The controversy cast a long shadow over the Glasgow agreement, which was already shaping as too weak to keep global warming below 1.5℃ this century. The world – including India – needs to phase out coal by 2040 if that warming goal is to be met, and India’s government is kidding itself to think the Glasgow intervention will make that problem vanish.
India should not be left to its own devices. India has made it impossible for coal use to decline, and has placed it and other coal-intensive countries, such as Australia, under greater global pressure to abandon coal.
A big coal problem
In India and China, coal-fired power has increased steadily since 2000. grown massively. The two countries were represented at COP26. joinedA coal exporter is a company that supplies coal to other big coal users such as South Africa and Nigeria in the last minute.
India cannot excuse itself by pointing out its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. Like many other nations to adopt a net-zero goal – including Australia – India has no firm plan to get there.
Nor is India’s 2030 target strong enough. Climate Action Tracker, a global research organisation I helped lead, is another. foundIndia can meet the goal in large measure with the policies already in place.
India has a huge coal problem and will require substantial support from developed countries to address it. It also has enormous potentialRenewable energy expansion
Analysis shows that to prevent further climate disaster and keep warming to 1.5℃, thermal coal must be phased out by 2030 in developed nations and by 2040 globally – including in India. Softening the language in the COP26 decision doesn’t change this fact.
Parallels to Australia
So where does all this leave Australia, one of the world’s largest coal exporters?
Australia has a huge coal problem, and a great potential for renewable energy. Australia, just like India, has resisted signing up for big COP26 commitments for a quicker phase-out of coal as well as large reductions in emissions. methaneEmissions by 2030
Large methane reductions need to come from fossil fuels – namely coal mining and gas production. Both of these industries have been protected by the government.
To stay within the 1.5˚C warming limit, gas must be phased outIt is almost as fast as coal. But Australia’s political class is largely in denial about the gas problem.
However, there was one important development at COP26 that suggests the issue will not be resolved. It involves a new alliance, led by Costa Rica and Denmark, known as Beyond Gas and Oil Alliance. Sooner rather than later, we can expect it to come for Australia’s fast-expanding LNG export industry.
Five things you need to know about the Glasgow Climate Pact
Looking ahead to COP27
All countries at COP26 agreed that they would return next year with stronger emission reduction targets. And for all nations – including India, China and Australia – the pressure to do so will be unrelenting.
Whichever government Australia has after the next election will have no choice but to substantially increase Australia’s actions and commitments beyond our pathetically weak efforts so far.
Without strong near-term targets, the world won’t get to net-zero emissions in time. Climate Action Tracker pointed out that even if the world meets its 2030 targets, it still faces a catastrophe. 2.4℃ of warmingThis century.
So where do we go from here? Next year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IGPCC) is due to releaseIts sixth assessment report.
So by COP27 in Egypt in November next year, we’ll have yet more compelling evidence of the devastating impacts of climate change if global warming is not limited to 1.5℃