July 15, 2021
The COP26 climate summit held in Glasgow was called the last chance to limit global warming to 1.5C.
But apart from trade and photography opportunities, what are the key things that countries need to do to deal with climate change?
1. Leave fossil fuels underground
Burning oil and natural gas, especially fossil fuels such as coal, release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, thereby absorbing heat and raising global temperatures.
If the temperature rise is to be limited to less than 1.5C, then this problem must be resolved at the government level-this level is considered the gateway to dangerous climate change.
However, many countries that rely primarily on coal, such as Australia, the United States, China, and India, refused to sign agreements at the summit aimed at phasing out energy in the coming decades.
How much is left to support fossil fuels?
2. Suppress methane emissions
A recent United Nations report shows that reducing methane emissions can make an important contribution to solving the earth's emergency.
Image source, Getty Images
"Burning" (combustion of natural gas during oil extraction) releases large amounts of methane, which can be prevented through technical maintenance. It is also important to find better waste disposal methods, because landfills are another important source of methane.
At COP26, in an agreement led by the United States and the European Union, nearly 100 countries agreed to reduce methane emissions. The global methane pledge aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% compared to 2020 levels.
3. Switch to renewable energy
Compared with any economic sector, power generation and heating contribute more to global emissions.
Transforming the global energy system from relying on fossil fuels to one based on clean technology (ie, decarbonization) is critical to achieving current climate goals.
Picture source, PA media
By 2050, if countries are to achieve net zero emissions targets, wind and solar energy will need to dominate the energy mix.
However, there are also challenges.
Less wind means less electricity, but better battery technology can help us store the remaining energy from renewable energy sources, ready to release when needed.
4. Give up gasoline and diesel
We also need to change the way we power vehicles that travel on land, sea and air.
Abandoning gasoline and diesel cars and switching to electric vehicles will be crucial.
Image source, Getty Images
Trucks and buses can be powered by hydrogen fuel, ideally produced from renewable energy.
Scientists are developing new, cleaner fuels for aircraft, although activists are also urging people to reduce the number of flights they take.
Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think
5. Plant more trees
A 2018 United Nations report stated that if we want to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must remove carbon dioxide from the air.
Forests are very good at absorbing it from the atmosphere-which is one of the reasons why activists and scientists emphasize the need to reduce deforestation to protect the natural world.
Image source, Reuters
Large-scale tree planting programs are seen as a way to offset carbon dioxide emissions.
As countries strive to achieve net zero emissions targets, trees may be important because once emissions are reduced as much as possible, the remaining emissions can be "offset" by carbon sinks such as forests.
World leaders pledge to end deforestation by 2030
6. Remove greenhouse gases from the air
Emerging technologies that artificially remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or prevent its release in the first place may play a role.
Many direct air capture facilities are under development, including plants built by Carbon Engineering's Climeworks in Texas and Switzerland. They use huge fans to push air through chemical filters that absorb carbon dioxide.
Climeworks’ first direct air capture plant opened in 2017 and currently has 15 machines in operation worldwide
Another method is carbon capture and storage, which captures emissions at the "point sources" where they are produced, such as in coal-fired power plants. Then the carbon dioxide is buried deep in the ground.
However, this technology is expensive and controversial because critics believe it helps perpetuate dependence on fossil fuels.
7. Provide financial assistance to help poorer countries
At the COP Summit in Copenhagen in 2009, rich countries pledged to provide 100 billion U.S. dollars (74.6 billion pounds) in funding by 2020 to help developing countries cope with and adapt to climate change.
Although the UK government as the chair of the Conference of the Parties recently outlined a plan to implement funding by 2023, the target date has not yet been achieved.