10 Dec 18

Dinosaurs win climate battle in Poland

Four fossil-fuel producing countries have blocked the publication of a key report at COP24 in Katowice. It’s a pyrrhic victory: everybody else at the UN Climate Conference is on board for urgent climate action – including the automotive industry.

Dinosaurs: it’s what oil and coal are made of (and from other long-dead, long-compressed organic matter). It’s is also a good term for the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. 

Unrestricted exploitation
Because these four countries represent a viewpoint that should be extinct by now: that there is a future for the unrestricted exploitation of the very fuels that are polluting our environment and messing up our climate.

Intent on safeguarding their domestic fossil-fuel industries, the four blocked the UN Climate Conference in Poland (COP24) from including a report commissioned by the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) three years earlier in the final conference text. 

That report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) into the evidence of global warming, offered an alarming conclusion: if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming to +1.5°C, we urgently and drastically have to reinvent the global economy. 

Refugee crisis
If we don’t, the report warns, we could see global food shortages, flooded coastal cities around the world, and a global refugee crisis of unseen proportions; all as early as 2040.

COP24 now has to agree on rules to implement the goals agreed at COP21. The non-inclusion of the IPCC report only widens the gap between targets and actions: current trends and commitments would lead to a warming anywhere between 3°C and 5°C by the end of this century – and that is “incompatible with the maintenance of human civilisation”, scientists warn.

Despite all talk (and action) undertaken so far, global CO2 emissions are projected to hit 37.1 billion tonnes in 2018, 2.7% higher than last year. The EU has managed to reduce emissions, albeit slightly (-0.7%); meanwhile, they’ve gone up considerably in the US (+2.5%), China (+4.7%) and India (+6.3%).

Major contributors
To make matters worse, a recent report in Nature suggests +1.5°C global warming threshold will be reached around 2030, a decade earlier than projected by the IPCC. By the mid-2040s, Europe will have warmed by an average of +2°C.

Transport is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions; but unlike the rear guard of a handful of major fossil-fuel producing countries, the automotive industry has learned its lesson and is on board with the programme. 

Each OEM has a different trajectory, but all are working towards the same target: decarbonisation of the transport sector. BMW Group, for instance, used the conference in Katowice – where it is the headline sponsor of the Sustainable Innovation Forum – to announce that it is already sourcing its electricity from 100% renewable sources in Europe and that it will do so worldwide by 2020.

Right direction
True, car makers could do always do more, and faster; but at least they have abandoned the dinosaur position and are moving in the right direction. 

The UN Climate Change Conference 2018 will close on 14 December, and in its final statement will merely ‘note’ the IPCC report instead of ‘welcoming’ it. That battle has been won by the four pro-fossil-fuel nations. 

Hopefully, this will inspire everybody else – both public and private sector – to make an even greater effort to win the war for the future of the planet.   

Image: John Cummings, CC BY-SA 2.0

Authored by: Frank Jacobs