city heat effect

Covid-19 throws major spanner into climate change mitigation efforts

The majority of countries have failed to stick to their climate pledges as laid out in the Paris Agreement, with the Covid-19 pandemic labelled as a “huge disruption” to the ongoing efforts.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which is formed from countries disproportionately affected by climate change, said that most nations are failing to stick to their five-year Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as laid out in the 2015 Agreement.

Low-lying Bangladesh, which is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, currently holds the CVF presidency.

Its environment minister Shahab Uddin called for greater action to strengthen climate targets and said the world could not wait another five years before serious climate mitigation policies are implemented.

“The gap between action and words has never been greater, with the world failing the Barometer test just as the pressure cooker of the planet is reaching boiling point,” he said.

The chair of the CVF’s expert advisory group, Professor Dr Saleemul Huq, said if the countries that failed to meet their NDCs did not now strengthen their climate action plan, “the Paris regime has failed its first and most important test”.

“2020’s huge disruptions clearly played some role in inhibiting widespread compliance with the Paris Agreement, even if global emissions fell by more than 7 per cent,” he added.

“That level of emission cuts is precisely what is needed every single year till 2030 to keep the Paris 1.5°C goal within reach. The world can and has to do better.

“One way or another, climate justice must be done for those whose futures remain in the balance. This 2021 recovery year is now the pivotal moment to inject real climate ambition that communities will benefit from into national efforts worldwide.”

The 57 countries that in 2020 submitted stronger targets to cut their climate-changing emissions accounted for just 13 per cent of global emissions, the CVF said.

In November, the US, which is a major carbon emitter, formally exited the Paris Agreement due to strong scepticism about climate science from the Trump Administration. However, President-elect Joe Biden has said he will re-join the Agreement on his first day in office.

The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said today that 2020 was tied with 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Europe saw an exceptionally warm winter and autumn last year, while the Arctic suffered extreme heat and atmospheric concentrations of planet-warming carbon dioxide continued to rise.

“The extraordinary climate events of 2020 and the data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service show us that we have no time to lose,” said Matthias Petschke, Director for Space in the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. The bloc’s space programmes include the Copernicus earth observation satellites.

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