The halfway mark of the United Nations climate summit is nearing. The Biden administration tried to find a balance between applauding the countries’ new pledges to reduce emissions and warning that there are still many things they can do to prevent the worst effects of global warming.
“Let me emphasize as strongly as I can: Job not done,” John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy on climate change, said at a news conference in Glasgow on Friday. “We all need to be pressing our ambition going forward. But this is doable if we follow through.”
A flurry of climate pledges was witnessed in the first week at the climate summit. India vowed to reach net-zero emissions by 2070It is the first time that such a target has been set. At least 105 nations signed an agreementto reduce methane, a potent greenhouse, gas, by 30% in the next decade. Major financial institutions indicated that they would use the resources of their banks to support this goal. fund a shift to clean energy.
These promises seem significant on paper at least. International Energy Agency issued an analysisThursday’s statement suggested that if countries followed through with their latest climate pledges and long term plans, the world could limit global warming to 1.8° Celsius (or 3.2° Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels by 2100.
However, this would still be far short of keeping the planet at 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the threshold many scientists claim it should be. will experience catastrophic effectsFrom heat waves, droughts wildfires and flooding. (The planet has already warmed to 1.1 degrees. It would bring the world closer to achieving that goal than ever before.
Yet the agency’s analysis comes with huge caveats. It assumes that many countries including Australia, Brazil and China will keep their promises of net zero emissions by midcentury. Many of these countries have not yet put in place specific policies or detailed plans to reduce emissions sharply in the next decade. They are still on track to reach their goals.
“Governments are making bold promises for future decades, but short-term action is insufficient,” wrote Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
Mr. Kerry acknowledged that many of the promises being put forward at Glasgow were still only that — promises. “The words don’t mean enough unless they are implemented,” he said. “All of us have seen years of frustration for promises that are made but not kept. We know that. But I believe that what is happening here is far more than business as usual.
“The alternative,” he said, “is you don’t say anything, you don’t do anything, you don’t have any promises or commitments, and you’re sitting there just waiting for the deluge.”
The climate summit has been overshadowed by the fact that some major leaders have not shown up in person, including President Xi Jinping of China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
But Mr. Kerry said that he was continuing to talk with representatives from both countries at Glasgow in the hopes of finding “a way to try to move forward.”
“Are we going to have all countries at the sufficient level we need at the end of this next week? No. And we know that,” he said. “But we do know that we could have a critical mass of countries moving in a way that keeps” the goal of 1.5 degrees “alive.”
On Friday, Kerry said that the stakes for this conference were unimaginable at a New York Times climate forum in Glasgow. He said he was optimistic, despite the technological advances, including new satellite systems that measure methane and carbon dioxide emissions. This allows for the mapping of emissions from companies and nations.
“That availability coupled with the money means we have a new level of accountability,” Mr. Kerry said. “Moreover, there’s a reality in many of these programs and pledges being made that we’ve never seen before.”