This year’s United Nations climate conference is in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. It is the 27th time world leaders have gathered to talk about confronting global warming since 1995. However, climate issues are not a new thing in science.
We know that CO2 causes global warming since a long time ago
The world has known for much longer that climate change is a threat and that the primary cause is the use of fossil fuels and other industrial activity. In the 19th century, several European scientists studied how different gases and vapors can trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, at that time, calculated the temperature effect of doubling atmospheric CO2. It was precisely in the 1890s that he demonstrated that burning fossil fuels would likely warm the planet.
Around 40 years later, British engineer Guy Callendar has shown for the first time that the planet’s temperatures are rising in the modern era. He proved that by compiling historical weather data. Callendar connected temperature trends of measured CO2 increases in the atmosphere and suggested that temperature change is linked with that.
Then, Charles David Keeling, an American scientist, begins systematically measuring atmospheric CO2 levels over Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958. His discoveries resulted in the so-called “Keeling Curve,” a graph depicting steadily increasing CO2 concentrations.
James Hansen, an American climate scientist, in 1988 testifies before Congress that the planet is warming due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases caused by humans. He said publicly that this is already affecting the climate and weather.
And the UN talks began…
At the United Nations’ so-called Second World Climate Conference, held in 1990, scientists emphasize the dangers of global warming. They pointed out that the danger is both to nature and society. According to that time British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the world needed binding emissions targets.
At the Rio Earth Summit two years later, countries signed on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The goal of the UNFCCC is to control emissions aiming to avoid extreme climate change. It also embodies the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” The meaning of this concept is that developed countries must do more because they are responsible for most of the emissions in history. Yet, the treaty does not include any legally binding emission targets.
The first COP (conference of parties) was held in Berlin
UNFCCC treaty members convene in Berlin ин 1995 for the first “conference of parties,” or COP. The final document advocates for legally binding emissions reduction targets.
Two years later, in 1997, parties agreed to the first treaty that required specific emission reductions. That was at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries to reduce emissions from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. But different limits were assigned to different countries. The agreement was labeled as “stillborn” in the United States, according to that time key Senate Republicans.
In 2001, then-U.S. President George W. Bush took the office and named the Kyoto Protocol “fatally flawed”. He rejected to sign the agreement signaling that the country is effective out of the Kyoto climate solutions.
Kyoto Protocol, personal interests and global warming
But, Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2005. Since then the Protocol came into an effect in the country. With this ratification, the requirement that at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55% of emissions ratify the treaty was fulfilled. After this, the Kyoto Protocol actually went into effect internationally too.
At COP13 held in Bali in 2007, the delegates agreed to work on a new binding agreement to include both developed and developing countries. The next talks at COP15 held in Copenhagen nearly collapsed amid a dispute over binding commitments for when the Kyoto Protocol expires. Countries vote to look for some kind of a non-binding political statement rather than creating a new framework. By the way, Bali Roadmap proposed the creation of a binding framework.
Baby steps forward against global warming… and then bump
The Cancun COP16 from 2010 also failed to establish new binding emissions targets. The Cancun Agreements, on the other hand, found a Green Climate Fund. That Fund aimed to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation. Also, it set a goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
The COP17 talks held in 2011 in Durban, South Africa, falter after China, the United States, and India refuse to commit to binding emissions reductions by 2015. Instead, the parties to the UNFCCC agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2017.
Russia, Japan, and New Zealand 2012 opposed new emissions targets that exclude developing countries. Thus, countries agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol through 2020 at COP18 in Doha.
Losses and damages become a question that needs an answer… or money
In 2013 the representatives from poorer countries walked out of COP19 in Warsaw for several hours. That was due to a lack of agreement on how to deal with climate-related losses and damage. Eventually, there was a compromise. The scandal was avoided.
Two years later, things with global warming become clearer. Unfortunately, become much clearer. Global warming passed 1 degree Celsius. Extreme weather events including floods, droughts, and wildfires become more frequent and more severe around the globe. So, the countries were increasingly confronting these immediate climate change threats.
The Paris Agreement and gas emissions
The Paris Agreement from 2015 represents the first global treaty to request emissions pledges from both developed and developing countries, which are asked to pledge Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), with increasing aspirations every five years. Signatory nations pledge to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
But, in 2017, the then U.S. President Donald Trump said the Paris treaty is bad for the economy. He said that the United States will withdraw from it. Those become official in 2020.
Ambitious Greta and less ambitious countries
Greta Thunberg, a teen activist, captured global attention while protesting outside Sweden’s parliament. Eventually, she rallies youths around the world to join her in her “Fridays for the Future” movement to demand climate action. That become in 2018.
A year later, in 2019, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the lack of ambition displayed at COP25 in Madrid described it as a missed opportunity. Next year the annual COP was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After the pandemic, in 2021, COP26 was held in Glasgow, Scotland. The final Glasgow Pact establishes a goal of using less coal, encourages governments to increase their climate ambition, and establishes rules governing the trading of carbon credits to offset emissions. But, that was before the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis that followed.
Now, on November 6-18, national delegates will gather in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the United Nations climate summit, COP27. What will come out of these talks we shall see. Amid the overall economic crisis, the poor countries expect losses and damages compensations, and the rich countries offer promises.