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Is Boris Johnson planning to abandon the 1.5C climate target to secure a COP26 agreement?

Global Warming Policy Forum

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, US climate envoy John Kerry set out the Biden administration’s key goal for the UN climate summit (COP26) later this year.

US special envoy for climate John Kerry at the Kew Gardens in London in July © AFP via Getty Images

Kerry made clear that in order to limit global warming to the 1.5C target enshrined in the 2015 Paris climate accord, China would have to cut CO2 emissions much sooner than the Paris Agreement allows, warning that China’s failure to agree stronger cuts now could lead the US to impose punitive carbon border taxes.

Kerry, who has criss-crossed the world to promote President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, in his speech singled out China and said it would be “impossible” to limit warming to 1.5C unless the planet’s biggest emitter changed its targets. The 1.5C target is enshrined in the 2015 Paris climate accord.”

China, however, is opposed to committing to the 1.5 C goal and objects to any changes to the Paris Agreement which adopted a pledge to cap global surface temperature rise at “well below” two degrees Celsius and an aspirational limit of 1.5 degrees.

Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate diplomat, recenty warned that

some countries are pushing to rewrite the Paris Agreement. That is, they want to strive to change the target of control for the rise of temperature from two degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have to understand the different situations in different countries, and strive to reach a consensus,” he added.

China argues that industrialised nations, especially in the West, were able to get wealthy before CO2 reduction controls were adopted and that it and other developing economies should not be expected to make as heavy reductions as developed nations.

It has been evident for years that the climate and energy demands by China, India and other emerging nations and those by the US, the UK and the EU remain incompatible. There is, in short, a serious risk of another Copenhagen-type COP fiasco, something Boris Johnson urgently needs to avoid for his own reputation and job security.

Now reports in the British media suggest that he may consider abandoning the 1.5C goal in order to avoid a COP-flop in Glasgow in November.

If the ITV story below is accurate, 10 Downing Street seems to be sending out the message it may be shifting the COP26 goal posts away from the 1.5C goal and towards China’s 2C target.

However, if the price for a COP26 compromise is the abandonment of John Kerry’s 1.5C goal, the West’s unilateral 2050 Net Zero agenda itself would become largely obsolete.

It will be very interesting to see how Boris Johnson and Joe Biden will try to square this COP circle and avoid a political fiasco later this year.

Climate change: The hurdles Boris Johnson faces in tackling the crisis in the UK and globally
ITV News, 9 August 2021

Anushka Asthana
Deputy Political Editor

Monday’s landmark scientific report into the climate crisis – the culmination of eight years of work, pulling together the expertise of hundreds of scientists – makes for deeply depressing reading.

And its ‘code red’ warning is not related to obscure predictions for the future.

The “unprecedented” impact of human activity, which it outlines, can be seen everywhere – from the underground rail passengers shoulder deep in flood water in China, to the people in Greece, Turkey and America watching their homes devoured by wildfires to the dramatic flooding in Germany and Belgium.

But there is one thing in this report that could be seen as hopeful.

I recently had a conversation with a senior figure advising the UK government on the question of climate change and they said that the chances of keeping heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels had now virtually disappeared. Instead, they argued that 2C would be a good outcome and that we, as a country, should start to prepare for it.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is not ready to let go of the original target of the Paris Agreement. It says that while temperatures are now likely to rise by 1.5C a decade earlier than expected (by 2040), it is still possible to prevent us crossing that tipping point.

However, to do so will require “immediate, rapid and large-scale” reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. To put the scale of the challenge in context, one of the authors of the IPCC report, Dr Amanda Maycock, said last year’s global lockdown achieved a 6% reduction in emissions. What is now needed is a 5% reduction in emissions year-on-year for decades.

So, is that possible? Well, Cop26 – the next major climate conference to be hosted by Britain in November- is going to be key. This report makes clear that what emerges from those few days in Glasgow could ultimately decide whether the world can remain within that target – or not. […]

ITV News, 9 August 2021