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Climate change: Nine reasons why COP26 needs to work

By Chris Iggo, Chief Investment Officer of Core Investments at AXA Investment Managers.

Climate change is the greatest threat facing the world today and the urgency for action has increased dramatically. The sixth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered a stark message on the pace and extent of global warming and its effects. The analysis, which drew on the expertise of more than 200 authors, labelled humanity’s effect on climate change “unequivocal” and revealed that global warming is already greater than had been thought.

Its findings form the backdrop to this year’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, where leaders from all over the world are convening to discuss how they can make good on the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to +2°C but ideally +1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. According to the IPCC this goal is still achievable, albeit only just.

We need to bolster and accelerate our efforts to tackle climate change. We need to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions and move the global energy sector away from fossil-based fuels, towards greener, renewable alternatives. If we don’t, we risk the global economy and a prosperous future.

Here are nine reasons why COP26 needs to be a game-changer in the battle against climate change.

The climate crisis is escalating

1. Despite global lockdowns, the concentration of carbon dioxide in 2020 was 149% above the pre-industrial level, whereafter the planet began its mass reliance on fossil fuels, according to a report from the World Meteorological Organization – the United Nation’s weather agency. It found that all major greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxide, alongside carbon dioxide – increased at a quicker pace in 2020 than the average for the previous decade, a pattern which has spilled over into 2021.

2. Earth Overshoot Day marks the day each year when humanity’s demand for ecological resources exceeds what the planet can regenerate in that 12-month period. Aside from 2020, as the climate crisis escalates, the date has been moving earlier – this year, it fell on Thursday 29 July. From this point, for the remainder of the year, the earth is essentially operating in a deficit, consuming more natural resources than it generates.

We’re not doing enough

3. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for faster progress in the energy transition as it predicted warming would hit 2.1°C by 2100 under the current scenario. According to its latest World Energy Outlook, current pledges would achieve just 20% of the emissions cuts needed by 2030, to keep the goal of net zero by 2050 a possibility.

4. A new study from the Systems Change Lab – of the World Resources Institute – highlighted that across some 40 different sectors including energy, heavy industry, agriculture, transportation, finance and technology, not a single industry is moving at a sufficient speed to avoid 1.5˚C in global heating beyond pre-industrial times.

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