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Governments Have Failed to Respond Adequately to Climate Change at The U.N. Conference: Activists

While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start

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U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

At the UN Climate Change Conference, which concluded in the presence of delegates from nearly 200 countries, green activists on Sunday said governments have failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impact of climate change that was highlighted in a recent IPCC report.

Late Saturday night, the UN climate negotiations, known as COP24, drew to a close, with parties adopting a set of guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The climate change conference has failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020.

At the same time, a relatively effective though incomplete rule book for how to implement the Paris Agreement was finalised.

“It is a weak rule book that we have for implementation of the Paris Agreement. This rule book is completely insufficient to drive ambitious climate action,” New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said.

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
Participants take part in plenary session during COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. VOA

CSE has been tracking the negotiations at the 24th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) here.

The COP24 conference also failed to increase the ambition of countries to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases as per the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5 degrees Celsius, CSE’s Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan told IANS.

Limited progress was also made with regard to how financial support for poorer countries coping with devastating climate change impact will be provided and accounted for, says another climate negotiator.

The EU has made welcome efforts by building alliances with other countries and finding common ground on sticking points.

With several other members of the High Ambition Coalition, the EU has set a good example by committing to increase its 2030 climate target by 2020, in light of the warnings of the IPCC calling for “rapid and far-reaching” action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
COP24 President Michal Kurtyka speaks during the opening of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. VOA

However, NGOs and civil rights bodies say the COP24 has failed to convince all other governments to make the same commitment.

Germany doubled its support for the Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, but other European countries still have to do the same.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe Director Wendel Trio told IANS: “The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens. Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.”

“The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate change pledge before the UN Secretary General Summit in September 2019. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55 per cent reduction some member states and the European Parliament are calling for.”

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Jennifer Tollmann, climate diplomacy researcher, E3G said: “In the end the EU did finally step up as a bridge-builder. But we now need to see whether they can ace the real test.”

Andrew Wu, research analyst at World Resources Institute, said: “We cannot overlook land use, a sector which accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. There is now a common framework, supported by COP, to help countries measure land use emissions. All countries must adopt this and incorporate natural climate solutions in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

Also Read: As Climate Talks Come to a Halt, Africa Suffers From Global Warming

Commenting on the decision, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew, said: “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the agreement.” (IANS)

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Glaciers in Alaska Melting due to Climate Change

Disappearing Frontier: Alaska's Glaciers Retreating at Record Pace

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Alaska Glaciers
A sign marks where the end of the Exit glacier was in 2010 near tourists taking photos in the Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. VOA

Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.

Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.

Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.

“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.

At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.

Chugach National Forest Alaska
Chugach National Forest ranger Megan Parsley holds photos showing this summer’s ice loss at the face of Portage Glacier, Alaska, U.S. VOA

“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.

Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.

“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.

Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.

Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.

Casting off chunks

Barack Obama Alaska
President Barack Obama views Bear Glacier on a boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska. VOA

Now that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.

Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.

“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.

Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.

There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.

Also Read- Oxygen Loss from Oceans Dangerous for Aquatic Species: IUCN Report

Changes in the glaciers and the ecosystems they feed has been so fast that they are hard to track, said O’Neel at USGS, who measured the melt at Wolverine Glacier in September.

“Everything’s been pretty haywire lately.” (VOA)