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  • Back in 1992, more than 150 countries signed a new treaty established by the

  • United Nations. The treaty created a multinational task force that would

  • support the global response to the threat of climate change. Every year,

  • delegations from countries signed up to this convention gather for the

  • Conference of the Parties, more commonly known as COP.

  • So what happens at COP and does it really play a key role in the

  • global fight against climate change?

  • Nice wellies. You like the wellies? I put them on

  • especially for you. Not quite so sure about yours.  

  • We don't normally put wellies on in the countryside until at least October.

  • Well, these are like my city wellies. Yeah it shows.

  • You've got the dog as well so you're a proper country bumpkin.

  • Well don't tell everyone. What are we here to talk about,

  • why did you want to go on a walk with me? Well, we're going to talk about COP, and

  • I thought it would nice be out in nature considering it's an important

  • factor in everything to do with COP. Well, a very warm welcome to the

  • Ashdown forest. Shall we crack on? Yes.

  • It's the Squawk Box show with Karen Tso and myself

  • Steve Sedgwick and these are your headlines.

  • CNBC's Steve Sedgwick anchors Squawk Box Europe. He's also covered energy

  • for the last 20 years reporting from both OPEC meetings with the world's

  • biggest oil producers, to critical climate conferences such as COP21.

  • I wanted to ask him about the goings-on within COP and its

  • effectiveness in achieving the world's climate objectives.

  • For those of us who haven't been to COP, what's it like?

  • Stunningly intense. Heads of state in and out. Presidents, prime ministers.

  • You've got enormous entourages, a lot of people that are actually doing the

  • negotiations. You've got action advocates as well, the protesters

  • outside. You've got a security operation which is absolutely enormous.

  • The head of the negotiations in Paris once said to me and this is Christiana

  • Figueres, she said to me it as akin to herding cats. You've got basically all

  • walks of society all talking about one issue. This isn't like a G meeting where

  • you have a plethora of global issues. This is one issue, it's all about

  • climate change and affects all parts of society.

  • A year after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate

  • Change came into force, the first COP meeting was held in Berlin,

  • Germany in March 1995. Since then, climate change has gone from a

  • fringe issue to a global priority.

  • Certain COPs have achieved landmark agreements. COP 3 in 1997 saw the

  • adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds developed country parties

  • to emission reduction targets. And in 2015 at COP 21, the Paris Agreement

  • was born, arguably the most significant moment in COP's history.

  • Today the UNFCCC has near-universal membership. The 197 parties (196

  • countries plus the European Union) under the convention are treaty bound

  • to 'avoid dangerous climate change' and find

  • ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.

  • What was the first COP you reported from?

  • Well, here's the thing. I've been to dozens of energy meetings over

  • the last decade but CNBC has actually only attended two COP

  • meetings in the last 12 years. Now the first was seen as a very

  • unsatisfactory outcome. That was the COP 15 that Geoff Cutmore went

  • to in Denmark. It just didn't work. You had antagonism between emerging

  • countries and the United States. There was nothing binding about

  • it but I went to the COP21 in Paris where a lot of the ills of

  • the previous meetings were addressed and actually it was

  • a very successful meeting because at the end of it you had the Paris

  • Agreement which was absolutely a seminal moment.

  • Every country signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement has agreed

  • to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees

  • above pre-industrial levels, with an aim for 1.5 degrees. To deliver

  • on these targets, signatories need to make money available in order to

  • adapt to the impact of climate change.

  • The Paris Agreement was far more binding than almost anything we'd

  • seen beforehand as well. You had this commitment to get to net zero

  • at some stage this century, but everyone was going to go about it

  • in their own way. There was going to be a mechanism where everyone

  • checks up on how they were progressing every five years.

  • That was supposed to be Glasgow 2020, but the pandemic put paid

  • to that and that's why this meeting, the Glasgow COP26 is absolutely pivotal.

  • 191 Parties out of the 197 have ratified the Paris Agreement.

  • However, although the agreement is legally binding, the commitments

  • that countries have made to cut their emissions are not. These are known as

  • Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, and serve to only 'embody'

  • each country's efforts to reduce their emissions.

  • The UNFCCC's aim is to ratchet up individual commitments and therefore

  • the world's climate commitments over time.

  • The problem is the scientists have looked at what is being committed

  • to and what needs to be done and there is a disparity there as well.

  • Many scientists say that actually to get to 1.5 degree C a whole host of

  • commitments is needed from these parties.

  • That's even if they do what they said they were

  • going to do back in Paris in 2015.

  • So if the Paris Agreement is the best thing to come out of COP's more than

  • 25-year history and it's still unable to limit

  • global warming, then how effective really is COP?

  • Well for a start Tom, it was always seen as a starting point as well.

  • It wasn't the be all and end all. This is where we start from in really

  • getting serious about climate change, but let me give you a good example.

  • One of the most important countries in the world, the United States,

  • the president pulled them out of the Paris Agreement, but in the

  • meantime the U.S. carried on. The federal states carried on, the

  • corporations carried on, so the process was going on, regardless

  • of who was the incumbent at the White House and I think that shows

  • the worth of the Paris Agreement and despite the rankle we're seeing

  • on geo-political stages, the Chinese, the United States, all the other big

  • emitters they're still moving towards plans and

  • hopefully better plans at COP26.

  • But as each country has its own socio and economic characteristics,

  • I imagine some countries are a little bit more ambitious, shall

  • we say, with their climate change goals?

  • I think the ambitions there but it's just the reality of what's

  • going on in the emerging world compared to the developed world.

  • The developed world has the finance to do this. It has already

  • industrialised. Whereas a lot of the emerging nations, India being

  • the great case in point, it was in 2015, it will be in 2021, It

  • doesn't have the same socio-economic position as you say, it doesn't have

  • the same wealth, it's not at the same stage of industrialisation.

  • So it's very important for the western nations to appreciate

  • that actually these other nations to come along the same journey, to

  • make those same commitments needs a hell of a lot of finance.

  • As hosts of COP26, the U.K. takes a leading diplomatic role in

  • encouraging countries to commit to more ambitious 2030 emissions

  • reductions targets that align with reaching net

  • zero by the middle of the century.

  • Alongside these emission reduction targets, the UN hopes that COP26

  • will commit countries to: accelerate the phase out

  • of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric  

  • vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

  • Countries at the same time will need to adapt to protect communities

  • and natural habitats, mobilize at least $100 billion in climate finance

  • from developed countries per year and work together to, amongst other things,

  • finalize the Paris Rulebook which makes the Paris Agreement operational.

  • A report released before the COP26 summit said that only one country

  • The Gambiais on course to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius target, while

  • momentum has stalled for other countries such as Singapore and Russia.

  • Each signatory has their own targets for

  • ending their contribution to climate change.

  • Here in the U.K., the government's independent adviser on global

  • warming, has said the country needs plant around 100 million trees a

  • year to achieve its net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050.

  • Many scientists are saying that actually now is the last chance saloon. We have

  • to really move in the next five, certainly the next ten years to

  • avert the worst impacts of climate change and to

  • try and keep the change to below 1.5 degrees centigrade.

  • And there is another crisis as well which is the global pandemic. Many

  • countries see the recovery from the pandemic and averting climate change

  • and the worst parts of that climate change actually as the same strategy.

  • A lot of investment in digitisation, a lot of investment in renewables

  • as well. It's a unique opportunity for the world to get together and

  • actually have a cohesive plan rather than dribs and drabs left right and

  • centre for what many people think is the greatest and

  • existential crisis of our time.

  • It turns out that getting 20,000 or so people to meet at COP to

  • discuss saving the planet can also harm the planet. According to the

  • Polish environment ministry a UN summit emits about 60,000 tonnes

  • of CO2 – roughly the same emitted by 7000 homes in a year. Unsurprisingly

  • aviation makes up more than 80% of those emissions.

  • But COP says it will offset the damage by

  • planting enough trees to soak up those emitted gases.

Back in 1992, more than 150 countries signed a new treaty established by the

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Can COP save our planet? | CNBC Explains

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    Summer posted on 2021/09/23
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