Five levers to limit global warming

Divest from fossil fuels

Two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions originate from the combustion of fossil fuels, estimates the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its August 2021 report. the same impact: a coal-fired power plant emits 2.2 times more CO2 than a gas power station. But staying below 1.5 ° C requires an immediate reduction in their production: by 11% each year for coal, 4% for gas and 3% for oil, calculates the International Energy Agency ( IEA) in a scenario for achieving carbon neutrality, published in May 2021.

Even if some are turning away from it (multilateral development banks have reduced their investments in recent years), the trend remains for the time being to continue investing. According to a United Nations environment report, most oil and gas producing countries plan to increase their production, even after 2030. The same report estimates that current state policies would lead by 2030 to production. coal 240% higher than the limit required to stay below 1.5 ° C (57% for oil and 71% for gas).

Main obstacles: countries are reluctant to stop fossil fuel subsidies in the face of the risk of social instability; Investors and private companies continue to exploit resources and demand in certain sectors – such as transport – remains oriented towards fossils. As for gas, it is considered a transitional energy by many countries.

At COP26. The British presidency wishes to rally as many countries as possible to a goal of phasing out coal in 2030 (for developed countries) and in 2040 (for developing countries). It is also pushing countries and companies to stop selling thermal vehicles from 2035.

Promote renewable energies

Reducing the use of fossil fuels would result in increased use of electricity, particularly in the transport, building and industry sectors. The IEA estimates that it will have to account for half of the energy mix in 2050 against 20% today. It is also necessary that this electricity is itself carbon-free. According to the agency, our solar and wind production should be multiplied by 5 by 2030 and by almost 10 by 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality.

The obstacles to the development of renewable energies are regularly cited: lack of political ambition, local opposition, tensions between different land uses. Above all, investing is expensive. While 750 billion dollars were spent on renewable energies and “clean” technologies in 2021, it would take three times as much to reach the objective of neutrality in 2050, points out the IEA. Access to this financing is even more difficult in developing countries where access to loans remains expensive.

Faced with this, the price of these energies has long held back investors. The situation is changing: in 2020, another report from the International Energy Agency concluded that the costs of renewables were increasingly lower than the costs of conventional production, despite large variations between countries (in India or in the States). United, coal is still the most competitive). Certain technological barriers must also be removed, such as the systems for storing the electricity produced.

At COP26. Like fossil fuels, renewables are not the subject of formal negotiations. But behind the scenes, an Energy Transition Council launched by 21 countries in 2020 hopes to rally other actors to its commitment to double investments in renewables by 2030.

Limit meat consumption and transform livestock farming

Livestock farming, particularly intensive farming, is the source of a large share of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the annual production of meat is massive – 325 million tonnes in 2020, according to the FAO, which, all production sectors combined, estimates that livestock represents 14.5% of anthropogenic emissions. They come from four sources: enteric fermentation; manure management; livestock feed production (and the deforestation it causes); energy consumption for processing and transporting meat.

We must therefore reduce consumption, especially in rich countries, especially as the world population continues to grow. In France, Terra Nova therefore recommended in 2017 to “Halve our consumption of animal flesh” within twenty to thirty years. “We must of course act in this direction, but we cannot be satisfied with a unambiguous message, notes Henri Waisman, at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (Iddri). In some countries of the South, livestock and meat are part of the development trajectories. “

Similarly, if beef production is one of the most emitting, “It is not so easy to find alternatives, because feeding pigs and poultry poses problems for biodiversity”, continues the expert. We must therefore favor local solutions, and, beyond consumption, transform the ways of producing meat.

At COP26. The day of November 6 will be devoted to biodiversity (and the impact of agricultural practices), inseparable from the fight for the climate. French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for the creation of action coalitions such as “OP2B”, which since 2019 has brought together major players in the agrifood industry.

Preserving forests, precious carbon sinks

To win the climate battle, we must reduce our emissions and preserve the carbon sinks that capture and store CO2. Forests play an essential role: according to FAO, they “Store 20 to 100 times more carbon per unit area than cultivated land”. However, these precious allies are shrinking by 5.3 million hectares per year, under the effect of natural disasters and deforestation (1).

First cause of it? The extension of agricultural land, to feed livestock, produce palm oil, sugar cane, corn, etc. The use of fossil fuels and urbanization also have their part in this deleterious process, which global warming has worsened in a worrying vicious circle. Thus, over the past ten years, the Brazilian Amazon has rejected more carbon than it has absorbed, in particular due to droughts which weaken biomass (2).

To limit these bleedings, the regulation of imports linked to deforestation is crucial. In this regard, draft trade agreements such as the one negotiated between the European Union and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) are singled out. In March 2021, the Institut Veblen and the bovine interprofessional Interbev also proposed the adoption of a European regulation on “mirror measures”, so that the production standards of the continent apply to imported products.

At COP26. The British Presidency will bring exporters and importers of products implicated in deforestation around the table. Objective: to find concrete solutions together.

Unlock billions for the countries of the South

Funding is one of the points of tension between developed and developing countries. Since the 1990s, climate negotiations have recognized an asymmetry between the rich countries, which are the source of the majority of historic emissions, and the least developed countries, which will suffer the effects disproportionately.

In Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries pledged to mobilize $ 100 billion in public and private funding each year until 2020 for the less wealthy countries. In 2015, the Paris agreement specified that this funding should be divided equally between climate change mitigation projects (investing in a field of solar panels, for example) and adaptation projects (building a dike to counteract sea ​​level rise).

The account is not there. According to the latest OECD score, $ 79.6 billion (€ 68.6 billion) was mobilized in 2019. Funding for adaptation represents only a quarter. “Beyond the quantity, there is a quality problem, underlines Armelle Le Comte, from the NGO Oxfam. States also tend to resort excessively to loans: they inflate their real financial effort, since they will be repaid later. ” To give an order of magnitude, adaptation alone is already costing developing countries $ 70 billion per year, according to the UN climate agency. This figure is expected to reach 140 to 300 billion in 2030.

At COP26. Mandated by the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany succeeded a week before the COP in collecting firm commitments from developed countries to release the 100 billion promised in 2023. In Glasgow, it will mainly be a question of defining a framework negotiation for a new, more ambitious objective (after 2025).


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