What to know about South Africa’s COP26 — the biggest climate change event of the year

Durban saw a historic day in September 2017: 11 heads of state arrived for an event of such scale that a plane was diverted from London and was rerouted to Cape Town, 400 miles…

What to know about South Africa’s COP26 — the biggest climate change event of the year

Durban saw a historic day in September 2017: 11 heads of state arrived for an event of such scale that a plane was diverted from London and was rerouted to Cape Town, 400 miles south of Durban, instead. The world leaders were gathered at the COP23 — the 23rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, a legally binding global deal that was adopted in Paris a decade ago.

Here are six things you should know from COP26, which brought together 30,000 delegates to discuss and vote on decisions about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive clean energy, and protect the world’s most vulnerable.

1. A shift to clean energy is happening faster than ever before. The global economy is shifting from oil, coal, and natural gas toward renewable energy at an unprecedented pace. In 2018, the global renewable energy capacity grew by 25 percent — the fastest growth rate seen in history.

2. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 40 to 70 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, the world will see dangerous global warming of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius. This will cause significant and irreversible changes to the climate.

In 2014, negotiators pledged in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial. They have until 2020 to achieve that goal.

3. Enhanced efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could result in a warming of about 3.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. This increase would have large negative effects on people and the world, especially in developing countries.

4. The African region is facing the most severe risks from climate change. Rising sea levels, storm surges, heat waves, droughts, food shortages, and water crises will drive migration and radical migration patterns. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to be displaced by climate change by the end of the century.

5. The majority of poor people and vulnerable countries will be hardest hit by climate change. They will be unable to adapt to climate change, so they will be left behind.

6. If emissions are reduced by just 10 percent by 2030, the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be met.

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