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How to control climate change?

The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has been billed as a last chance to limit global warming to 1.5C. But beyond the deals and photo opportunities, what are the key things countries need to do in order to tackle climate change? BBC reports.

1. Keep fossil fuels in the ground

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and especially coal, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, trapping heat and raising global temperatures. 

It’s an issue that has to be tackled at the government level if temperature rises are to be limited to 1.5C – the level considered the gateway to dangerous climate change. 

However, many major coal-dependent countries – such as Australia, the US, China and India – have declined to sign a deal at the summit aimed at phasing out the energy source in the coming decades. 

2. Curb methane emissions

A recent UN report has suggested that reducing emissions of methane could make an important contribution to tackling the planetary emergency.

A substantial amount of methane is released from “flaring” – the burning of natural gas during oil extraction – and could be stopped with technical fixes. Finding better ways of disposing of rubbish is also important because landfill sites are another big methane source.

At COP26, nearly 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions, in a deal spearheaded by the US and the EU. The Global Methane Pledge aims to limit methane emissions by 30% compared with 2020 levels.

3. Switch to renewable energy

Many wind turbines and a large solar panel array in a desert valley, mountains in the distance and blue sky above. Palm Springs, California, USA

Electricity and heat generation make a greater contribution to global emissions than any economic sector. 

Transforming the global energy system from one reliant on fossil fuels to one dominated by clean technology – known as decarbonization – is critical for meeting current climate goals.

Wind and solar power will need to dominate the energy mix by 2050 if countries are to deliver on their net zero targets.

There are challenges, however.

Less wind means less electricity generated, but better battery technology could help us store surplus energy from renewables, ready to be released when needed.

4. Abandon petrol and diesel

We’ll also need to change the way we power the vehicles we use to get around on land, sea and in the air. 

Ditching petrol and diesel cars and switching to electric vehicles will be critical. 

Lorries and buses could be powered by hydrogen fuel, ideally produced using renewable energy. 

And scientists are working on new, cleaner fuels for aircraft, although campaigners are also urging people to reduce the number of flights they take.

5. Plant more trees

A UN report in 2018 said that, to have a realistic chance of keeping the global temperature rise under 1.5C, we’ll have to remove CO2 from the air. 

Forests are excellent at soaking it up from the atmosphere – one reason why campaigners and scientists emphasize the need to protect the natural world by reducing deforestation. 

Programs of mass tree planting are seen as a way of offsetting CO2 emissions. 

Trees are likely to be important as countries wrestle with their net-zero targets because once emissions have been reduced as much as possible, remaining emissions could be “canceled out” by carbon sinks such as forests. 

6. Remove greenhouse gases from the air

Emerging technologies that artificially remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or stop it being released in the first place, could play a role. 

A number of direct-air capture facilities are being developed, including plants built by Carbon Engineering in Texas and Climeworks in Switzerland. They work by using huge fans to push air through a chemical filter that absorbs CO2. 

Another method is carbon capture and storage, which captures emissions at “point sources” where they are produced, such as at coal-fired power plants. The CO2 is then buried deep underground. 

However, the technology is expensive – and controversial, because it is seen by critics as helping perpetuate a reliance on fossil fuels.

7. Give financial aid to help poorer countries

New Delhi, India – July 25, 2018: A poor boy collecting garbage waste from a landfill site in the outskirts of Delhi. Hundreds of children work at these sites to earn their livelihood.

At the Copenhagen COP summit in 2009, rich countries pledged to provide $100bn (£74.6bn) in financing by 2020, designed to help developing countries fight and adapt to climate change. 

That target date has not been met, although the UK government, as holders of the COP presidency, recently outlined a plan for putting the funding in place by 2023.

Many coal-dependent countries are facing severe energy shortages that jeopardize their recovery from Covid and disproportionately affect the poor. These factors stop them from moving away from polluting industries. 

Some experts believe poorer nations will need continuing financial support to help them move towards greener energy. For instance, the US, EU and UK recently provided $8.5bn to help South Africa phase out coal use.

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The world should adopt faster to the climate crisis – UN report

The gap is widening between the impacts of the climate crisis and the world’s effort to adapt to them, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme, CNN reports.

The annual “adaptation gap” report — which published Thursday amid the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow — found that the estimated costs to adapt to the worst effects of warming temperatures such as droughts, floods and rising seas in low-income countries are five to 10 times higher than how much money is currently flowing into those regions. 

In addition to promising to limit warming, governments from wealthy nations in the 2015 Paris Accord reaffirmed their commitment to contribute $100 billion a year to poorer nations to move away from fossil fuel and adapt to climate change-fueled disasters. This is because developing nations, particularly those in the Global South, are most likely to endure the worst effects of the climate crisis, despite the small amount they contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, said this is why climate finance — funding for low-income countries to fight the climate crisis — is vital.

“The Paris Accord says adaptation and mitigation funding needs to be in a degree of balance,” Andersen told CNN. “Those in poorer countries are going to suffer the very most, so ensuring that there’s a degree of equity and a degree of global solidarity for adaptation finance is critical.”

But the report found that $100 billion a year — a pledge which wealthy nations have so far been unable to achieve — isn’t even enough to match the demand. Adaptation costs for low-income countries will hit $140 to 300 billion each year by 2030 and $280 to 500 billion per year by 2050, UNEP reports. 

In 2019, only $79 billion of climate financing flowed into developing nations, according to the latest analysis.

As the climate crisis intensifies, adaptation measures are becoming more critical. Global scientists have said the world should try to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a critical threshold to avoid the worst impacts. But Thursday’s report suggests this threshold will be breached sooner than previously imagined, and some climate impacts are already irreversible. Wildfires, droughts, record heat waves and deadly floods terrorized parts of the Northern Hemisphere this summer.

“While strong mitigation is the way to minimize impacts and long-term costs, increased ambition in terms of adaptation, particularly for finance and implementation, is critical to prevent existing gaps widening,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Roughly 79% of all countries have adopted at least one adaptation plan, policy or strategy to stem the impact, a 7% increase since 2020. Meanwhile, 9% of countries that don’t currently have a plan or policy in place are in the process of developing one. 

But the report says implementation of these adaptation measures is stalling. A separate UNEP report found that 15 major economies will continue to produce roughly 110% more coal, oil, and gas in 2030 than what’s necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, which will worsen climate change-fueled extreme weather events and make adaptation all the more critical. 

At a forum on vulnerable countries at COP26 this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on wealthy nations, banks and shareholders to “allocate half their climate finance to adaptation” and “offer debt relief” for low-income nations.

“Vulnerable countries must have faster and easier access to finance,” Guterres said. “I urge the developed world to accelerate delivery on the $100 billion dollars to rebuild trust. Vulnerable countries need it for adaptation and for mitigation. [They] are not the cause of climate disruption.”

One way to tackle this, according to the report’s authors, is to use Covid-19 recovery stimulus packages as an opportunity to deliver green and resilient adaptation measures to developing countries. The twin crises of climate change and the pandemic have stretched economic and disaster response thin, but authors say it proves the world can adapt to the worst impacts of warming temperatures.

The adaptation gap report comes at a critical time as world leaders gather at COP26 to discuss the probability of keeping the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, as well as also ensuring that wealthy, fossil fuel-generating nations hold on to their promise of transferring $100 billion a year to low-income countries, particularly in the Global South.

Andersen said one thing is clear: “The more we delay climate action, the more adaptation will become important, especially for the most poor, who are going to be hit the hardest.”

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French investors will be required to declare how green their assets are

France is striving to confirm its position as a global leader in corporate climate disclosures with a new set of binding targets that require investors to declare how green their assets are and set greenhouse emissions goals every five years.

In 2015, when it hosted U.N. climate talks that agreed a major deal to move the world away from fossil fuel, France took the lead in requiring financial institutions and asset managers to disclose their exposure to climate risks.

Since then the debate has moved further into the mainstream and countries and companies around the world are vying for position as environmental champions.

This month, Britain hosted G7 talks that backed mandatory climate disclosure and some policy-makers want a deal to establish global reporting requirements in time for November’s U.N. climate change talks in Glasgow.

France has sought to secure its lead with the world’s first regulations, published on June 2 and taking effect from the 2021 reporting period, to make it mandatory for investors to set greenhouse gas emission goals every five years to 2050 and for quantified targets to protect biodiversity.

The 230 portfolio management firms covered by the regulations will have to declare the percentage of their assets that is green and their exposure to fossil fuel companies.

France was keen to ensure European governments set the ground rules, rather than import U.S.-influenced voluntary recommendations. It says its 2015 rules served as a model for EU regulations on sustainable finance disclosure currently taking effect.

“We don’t want to depend on a framework that comes from the United States,” former state secretary for environmental transition Brune Poirson told Reuters.

BUILDING ON EXPERIENCE

In 2015, France was at the vanguard when it introduced a requirement that institutional investors and asset managers must explain how they factored in climate risks or to give a reason why they could not.

With several years of experience and disclosure regulation entering into force across the European Union, France is seeking to go further than its peers.

AXA Investment Managers, the French insurer’s asset management arm, said that the updated French rules were “more detailed than the European regulation” and should be used as a “user’s guide” to putting the new EU reguirements into practice.

This month’s update also made compulsory the recommendations from the industry-led Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which a growing number of companies internationally follow on a voluntary basis.

Paris has supported the principles behind the U.S.-influenced TCFD recommendations since they were issued in 2017, but had previously stopped short of bringing them into the French framework.

The shift places it just ahead of Britain, which has proposed UK companies should meet TCFD recommendations from next year.

Central bankers are among those who say mandatory rather than voluntary reporting is necessary to deal with the risk of assets that could prove to be of low value because of their climate exposure.

“Disclosure will help markets to appropriately price climate-related risks and ensure efficient allocation of capital,” Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau told an online central banking conference early this month.

“That is why disclosure should become mandatory, at least as a first step for financial institutions, as it is already in France, and for large corporates,” he said.

RULES VERSUS REALITY

While representatives of French asset managers supported France’s approach, they said that the disclosure rules for investors were ahead of those for companies making up their portfolios.

“The lack of data published by issuers is going to keep us from meeting the regulation’s demands in the short term,” Alix Faure, head of sustainable investing at the French asset managers’ association, said.

Independently of governments and regulators, many investors have been pressing for more climate transparency, which has to an extent eroded France’s first mover advantage.

Campaign group CDP, which tracks corporate disclosure, had 19 French companies on its transparency A-list last year, level with Germany but behind Britain which had 21 firms.

“Everyone is catching up, especially in Germany where big German companies have to be more transparent because investors demand it,” CDP capital markets director Laurent Babikian said.

Whereas once climate rules deterred investors that were seeking the highest returns, investing in sustainable and ethically governed companies is now widely seen as a way to reduce financial risk.

A study by France’s central bank in January found French investors have reduced their exposure to companies in the fossil-fuel sector by 39% since 2015, suggesting that 28 billion euros ($33.34 billion) have been channelled elsewhere.

Green pressure groups, however, question whether French leadership has had much impact so far.

“France has self-proclaimed itself as a leader of green finance since 2017, but four years later the government’s incapacity to spur a shift in financial flows exposes its failure on climate policy,” Friends of the Earth France campaigner Lorette Philippot said in a statement.

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The Great Barrier Reef is in danger. Climate crisis is the main reason

(CNN)The Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated to such an extent it should be listed as a world heritage site “in danger,” a United Nations committee said Tuesday – prompting immediate backlash from the Australian government.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee recommended the listing, recognizing the climate crisis as the driving factor behind the destruction of the world’s largest coral reef. It called for Australia to “urgently” address threats from climate change.

The inclusion will be voted on at the committee’s meeting in China next month.

Australian Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the government will “strongly oppose” the recommendation, arguing the government was investing $3 billion in reef protection. Ley said officials in Canberra were “stunned” by the move and accused UNESCO of backflipping on previous assurances the reef would not be declared endangered.

“The Great Barrier Reef is the best managed reef in the world and this draft recommendation has been made without examining the reef first hand, and without the latest information,” Ley said in a statement. 

In a call with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, Ley said she “made it clear that we will contest this flawed approach, one that has been taken without adequate consultation.”Spanning nearly 133,000 square miles (345,000 square kilometers) and home to more than 1,500 species of fish and 411 species of hard corals, the Great Barrier Reef is a vital marine ecosystem. It also contributes $4.8 billion annually to Australia’s economy and supports 64,000 jobs, according to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

But the reef’s long-term survival has come into question. It has suffered from three devastating mass bleaching events since 2015, caused by above-average ocean temperatures as the burning of fossil fuels heats up the planet. 

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system and a vital marine ecosystem.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and a vital marine ecosystem.

In October, researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies found the reef had lost 50% of its coral populations in the past three decades, with climate change a key driver of reef disturbance. 

In 2019, the Australian government’s Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report downgraded the reef’s condition from “poor” to “very poor.” 

The UNESCO committee said it was crucial Australia implemented the recommendations of that 2019 report, which called for “accelerated action to mitigate climate change and improve water quality.”

It said the government’s “progress has been insufficient” in meeting its key reef policy, called the Reef 2050 Plan, and it “requires stronger and clearer commitments, in particular towards urgently countering the effects of climate change.”

Environment Minster Ley agreed climate change is the single biggest threat to the world’s reefs, but said “it is wrong, in our view, to single out the best managed reef in the world for an ‘in danger’ listing.”

Scientists said the UNESCO proposal was a wake-up call.

On its current course, global average temperatures will increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists warn no coral reefs can survive, according go the Climate Council. It has recommended Australia cut its emissions by 75% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035. 

Australia has made no commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, making it a global outlier. Australia’s current targets are to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2030, which have been widely criticized as not ambitious enough.

“The Australian government has stewardship of one of the world’s most precious and iconic ecosystems, but its continued support for fossil fuels and its lack of effective climate policy means it’s utterly failing to live up to that responsibility,” said Climate Council spokesperson and climate scientist, Prof. Lesley Hughes, in a statement. “The situation is dire, and our response should match that.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter said the reef cannot be protected “without rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.”

“Just a week after Prime Minister (Scott) Morrison faced the disapproval of the world’s leaders for his poor climate performance at the G7 conference, we are seeing the terrible consequences of Australia’s failure to reduce emissions — and the Reef is paying the price,” Ritter said in a statement. 

The report comes as Australia swore in a new deputy prime minister on Tuesday. Barnaby Joyce, a climate change skeptic, is leader of the Nationals — a party that represents rural Australia, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel mining. Joyce’s position is expected to make it more difficult for the Morrison government to strengthen climate targets adopted by most other major nations. 

UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger has 53 entries, which include natural wonders and man-made sites. Jerusalem’s Old City was added in 1982, while Aleppo — the Syrian city bombarded by air strikes — made the list in 2013.

The inclusion is supposed to spur parties into action to save the endangered sites. According to UNESCO’s website, if an endangered site loses the characteristics that make it special, “the World Heritage Committee may decide to delete the property from both the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage List.”

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