Are countries implementing their Paris Agreement pledges?
In December 2018, at the COP24 climate change conference in the Polish city of Katowice, almost 200 countries signed up to a rulebook for implementing the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.
The 156-page “rulebook” was described by the UN as a “robust set of guidelines” for implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement, euronews.com reported.
The landmark agreement, reached in 2015 at the COP21, aims to limit global temperature rises to “well below” 2°C.
Each country must make a voluntary pledge of climate action.
As world leaders are meeting again for the COP25 conference in Madrid from December 2-13. 2019, Euronews takes a look at the pledges and the progress that has been made.
136 out of 184 national pledges ‘insufficient’: Report
Only the 28 EU countries and a few others, among them Switzerland, Norway and Ukraine, are expected to live up to their climate pledges, a report by the Universal Ecological Fund (FEU) has found.
The analysis of current pledges to reduce emissions between 2020 and 2030, published this month, said that “almost 75
percent of the climate pledges are partially or totally insufficient to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and some of these pledges are unlikely to be achieved.”
The report judges that out of the 184 national Paris Agreement pledges made, 136 are insufficient.
“Because the climate pledges are voluntary, technicalities, loopholes and conditions continue to postpone decisive global action to reduce emissions and address climate change”, the report says.
The 28 EU member states committed to reducing GHG emissions “at least 40 percent from 1990 level” by 2030. According to the FEU report, EU states are “on track to cut GHG emissions by 58 percent by 2030.”
India’s pledge, to “reduce the emissions intensity (of all GHGs) of its GDP by 30-35 percent from 2005 level by 2030”, is expected to be met, the report said, despite the country’s emissions “growing rapidly”, like China.
Meanwhile, the report noted, Russia “has not even submitted its plan to cut emissions yet.”
Overall, “at least 130 nations, including four of the top five world’s largest emitters, are falling far short of contributing to meeting the 50 percent global emission reductions required by 2030 to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”, the FEU warns in its report.
Most countries take ‘insufficient’ action that would lead to over 2°C global warming
Another scientific analysis by the Climate Action Tracker, a tool created by a consortium of climate institutes, is even bleaker.
According to the Climate Action Tracker, the climate action of most countries, including all the EU member states and other big emitters like Australia and Canada are “insufficient” and would lead to over 2°C and up to 3°C or 4°C global warming.
A few countries, like Bhutan, India and the Philippines, are ranked as “2°C Paris Agreement compatible” and the only two countries whose pledges are “1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible” are Morocco and the Gambia.
“The European Union’s climate and energy policy developments during 2018 and early 2019 are steps in the right direction towards re-establishing its position as a global leader on climate policy action”, the Climate Action Tracker notes.
“However, the EU also needs to radically increase the emissions reduction goal in its Paris Agreement commitment (NDC) to reflect not only the policies it has already adopted, but also what it can achieve by 2030.”
Coal power becoming ‘uninsurable’ as firms refuse cover
The number of insurers withdrawing cover for coal projects more than doubled this year and for the first time US companies have taken action, leaving Lloyd’s of London and Asian insurers as the “last resort” for fossil fuels, according to a new report.
The report, which rates the world’s 35 biggest insurers on their actions on fossil fuels, declares that coal — the biggest single contributor to climate change — “is on the way to becoming uninsurable” as most coal projects cannot be financed, built or operated without insurance, theguardian.com reported.
Ten firms moved to restrict the insurance cover they offer to companies that build or operate coal power plants in 2019, taking the global total to 17, said the Unfriend Coal campaign, which includes 13 environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Client Earth and Urgewald, a German NGO. The report will be launched at an insurance and climate risk conference in London on Monday, as the UN climate summit gets underway in Madrid.
The first insurers to exit coal policies were all European, but since March, two US insurers – Chubb and Axis Capital – and the Australian firms QBE and Suncorp have pledged to stop or restrict insurance for coal projects.
At least 35 insurers with combined assets of $8.9 trillion, equivalent to 37 percent of the insurance industry’s global assets, have begun pulling out of coal investments. A year ago, 19 insurers holding more than $6 trillion in assets were divesting from fossil fuels.
Peter Bosshard, one of the Unfriend Coal campaign coordinators, said: “We hope within two to three years it will be so difficult to obtain insurance that most coal projects won’t be able to go forward.
“We’ve seen the acceleration [in firms pulling out of coal] for a good reason — people are freaking out.”
As global temperatures climb, hurricanes, wildfires and floods have become more frequent and severe, resulting in higher claims bills for insurers.
Lloyd’s, the world’s biggest insurance market, is the only major European firm which continues to insure new coal projects.
Bosshard said it had a critical role to play: “Together with Asian insurers, the Lloyd’s market is becoming the ‘lender of last resort’ for a dying and destructive industry.”
Lloyd’s started excluding coal from its investments in its own £4 billion central mutual fund in April 2018. However, its chief executive John Neal last month ruled out issuing guidelines on underwriting coal projects to its member syndicates.
Lloyd’s said: “We take climate change extremely seriously and recognize the important role insurance can play in supporting, accelerating and de-risking the transition to a low carbon economy.
“Whilst Lloyd’s Corporation does not set underwriting policy in the market, except if there is a specific legal or regulatory requirement to do so, we are nevertheless committed to building consensus across the 90-plus syndicates that operate at Lloyd’s about how we make this transition.”
Scientists left baffled over lost ancient city Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan
Archeologists are still no closer to understanding who occupied the ancient city of Mohenjo Daro in modern-day Pakistan during the third millennium BCE.
Researchers first visited the site in 1911 and various excavations were carried out in the 1920s through to 1931. Subsequent digs took place in 1950 and 1964, which provided fascinating glimpses into the ideology and beliefs of the city’s inhabitants. The well-planned street grid and an elaborate drainage system suggest that the occupants were skilled urban planners, for whom the control of water was of utmost importance, express.co.uk wrote.
The city has no grandiose monuments such as palaces, temples or monuments.
It lacks an obvious central seat of government and there are no indications that the city was ruled over by an established monarchy.
Modesty, order and in particular cleanliness appeared to be qualities that were highly prized by the city’s inhabitants.
A watertight pool called the Great Bath is the closest structure Mohenjo Daro has to a temple.
According to Indus expert Gregory Possehl of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, this suggests an ideology based on cleanliness.
Wells were found throughout the city, and nearly every house contained a bathing area and drainage system, which would appear to back up Possehl’s theory.
During its heyday from about 2500 to 1900 BCE, the city was among the most important to the Indus Civilization.
It spread out over about 250 acres (100 hectares) on a series of mounds, and the Great Bath and an associated large building occupied the tallest mound.
According to University of Wisconsin, Madison, archeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, the mounds grew organically over the centuries as people kept building platforms and walls for their houses.
“You have a high promontory on which people are living,” he said.
With no evidence of kings or queens, Mohenjo Daro was likely governed as a city-state, perhaps by elected officials or elites from each of the mounds.
Its wealth and stature is evident in artefacts such as ivory, lapis, carnelian, and gold beads, as well as the baked-brick city structures themselves.
The demise of the Indus Civilization and Mohenjo Daro is also a mystery.
By 1900 BCE many Indus cities had been abandoned, but historians believe things started to fall apart around 1700 BCE.
Some historians think that a collapse of trade with the Indus’ major trading partner, Mesopotamia, was to blame.
Around the time the Indus cities started to fail, Mesopotamia, an advanced civilization in the Middle East, was going through huge political problems.
This led to the unravelling of its trade networks which would have had a huge impact on the Indus cities.
Others surmise that war was the likeliest cause behind the demise of the Indus.
Soil a non-renewable resource
Soil preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.
Soil is a finite resource, meaning its loss and degradation is not recoverable within a human lifespan. As a core component of land resources, agricultural development and ecological sustainability, it is the basis for food, feed, fuel and fiber production and for many critical ecosystem services, UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported.
The natural area of productive soils is limited. It is under an increasing pressure of intensification and competing uses for cropping, forestry, pasture/rangeland and urbanization, and to satisfy demands of the growing population for food and energy production and raw materials extraction.
Soils need to be recognized and valued for their productive capacities as well as their contribution to food security and the maintenance of key ecosystem services.
As it is highlighted by FAO in this year’s World Soil Day — December 5 — theme, soil erosion, as one form of soil degradation, is the greatest threat to soil functions in many regions of the world such as Africa, Asia, Latin America, Near East and North Africa, and North America. Erosion has three primary effects on crop growth and yield: Removal of the fertile surface soil horizon, incorporation of denser subsoil into the surface layer, and a possible decrease in the rooting zone of the soil.
Generally speaking, soil degradation is caused by unsustainable land uses and management practices and climate extremes that result from various social, economic and governance drivers.
Today, 33 percent of land is moderately to highly-degraded due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of soils. The current rate of soil degradation threatens the capacity of future generations to meet their most basic needs. Considering the little opportunity remained for expansion in the agricultural area, the sustainable management of the world’s agricultural soils and sustainable production have therefore become imperative for reversing the trend of soil degradation and ensuring current and future global food security.
More efficient use of water, reduced use of pesticides and improvements in soil health can lead to average crop yield increases of 79 percent.
As part of FAO’s global mandate, the organization urges and assists its member states to adopt an integrated ecosystems approach for the management of land resources to generate local, national and global benefits, particularly increased food security and improved rural livelihoods.
Soil matters for biodiversity
Soil hosts a quarter of our planet’s biodiversity.
Soil is one of nature’s most complex ecosystems and one of the most diverse habitats on earth. It contains a myriad of different organisms, which interact and contribute to the global cycles that make all life possible.
Nowhere in nature are species so densely packed as in soil communities. A single gram of soil may contain millions of individuals and several thousand species of bacteria. However, this biodiversity is little known as it is underground and largely invisible to the human eye.
Soil erosion, soil biodiversity, and agriculture
Soil erosion, one form of soil degradation, is the greatest threat to soil in many regions of the world, as reflected in this year’s World Soil Day theme. By removing the most fertile layer of soil, erosion causes a soil biodiversity decline.
The quality and health of soils largely determine agricultural production and sustainability, environmental quality and, as a consequence of both, has a bearing on plant, animal and human health. Improving soil biodiversity is vital to ensuring soil health and future food and nutrition security.
The scientific findings presented by FAO show that agricultural systems and agro-ecological practices that dedicate great care to nurturing soil biodiversity, such as organic farming, zero-tillage, crop rotations and conservation agriculture, can sustainably increase farm productivity without degrading soil and water resources.
South African disaster-management authorities are working with local governments to find more money to help farmers affected by drought, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, Bloomberg reported.