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The hope that world leaders will reach a broad-reaching climate change accord in Glasgow, Scotland, to keep global temperatures from crossing 1.5 degrees Celsius of rise over preindustrial levels has continued to dim in recent days.
China, by far the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, announced Thursday that it would not go beyond previous commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 and to reach peak levels of carbon emissions by 2030. That means that at a time when scientists have warned that nations must commit immediately to reducing greenhouse gas emissions or suffer devastating extreme weather consequences, the world's biggest atmospheric polluter plans to continue apace for nine more years.
China's defiance ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, comes days after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a personal appeal to President Xi Jinping to bolster the commitments made in Paris in 2015.
“I commend President Xi Jinping for announcing at the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly that China will end financing of coal-fired power plants abroad and direct support to green and low-carbon energy,” Guterres said. “We must do everything possible to keep the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement alive. I appeal for China’s presentation of an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution in the run-up to COP-26 in Glasgow.”
On Wednesday, India, the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, flatly rejected calls to set a deadline to achieve net-zero emissions.
“It is how much carbon you are going to put in the atmosphere before reaching net zero that is more important,” Indian Environment Secretary R.P. Gupta told reporters.
While the U.S., Britain and the European Union have all pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the devil is in the details. Meanwhile, the fate of the climate change measures contained in President Biden's infrastructure and spending bills remained in doubt as he left for Europe on Thursday.
The biggest weapon Biden had to meet the clean energy provision was stripped from the Democrats’ framework by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Just six of the G-20 nations have updated their emissions targets ahead of Glasgow, and a new report released this week found that another six, including the U.S., failed to meet their old ones.
A report by the United Nations Environment Program released this week found that, given current emissions pledges, the world was poised to see 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming, and that a 55 percent cut in overall emissions was needed to keep temperatures from rising beyond the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.
“We have eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts,” Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director, said in a statement. “The clock is ticking loudly.”
The lack of action has left many climate scientists doubtful that the Glasgow conference will yield a new and effective agreement that keeps temperatures from crossing the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold.
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