The coming Turnaround Decade (Dec. 29, 2019)

[Written by Elizabeth May]

Good Sunday Morning!

December 29, 2019

Happy Hanukkah – one last candle!  And Fourth Day of Christmas!

It seems incredible, but this is the last Sunday of 2019.  I do not need to ask “where did the year go?”  My 2019 was busy – national tour of every province and one territory – 37 communities, a summer of coast to coast Pride Parades, and then the national election – plus, one major personal event – getting married!

Today finds John and me on the train rattling across the prairies – our fifth BC-Ontario (or east to west) train trip of 2019.  That sets a new record for me.

So here we are, at the beginning of not only a new year, but a new decade. Back in 1990, we dubbed the ‘90’s as the “Turnaround Decade.”  We were wrong.  Had we done what we pledged to do at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, we would have averted the current climate emergency.

We failed to arrest climate change when we had the chance to avoid the climate emergency we now experience.  But we still have the chance to avert the worst.  And the worst is nearly unthinkable – so we push it to the back of our minds.  The worst is crossing a point of no return where human caused emissions trigger unstoppable, self-accelerating global warming.

The dawning decade must be the Turnaround Decade.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change October 2018 Special Report on 1.5 degrees C made it abundantly clear.  Globally, emissions must be cut in half by 2030. That requires starting yesterday.  We cannot afford to be wrong this time. We must turn-around. 2020 will be a major year for climate negotiations and pressure to ramp up our targets.

While, under the terms of the Paris Agreement, any government can, at any time, withdraw its target to establish a more aggressive set of goals, 2020 is the first year identified under the treaty for concerted and global improvement of climate goals.

The Madrid meeting, while failing on many levels, did re-affirm the requirement to ramp up in 2020:

The final COP25 decision, “Chile Madrid Time for Action,” called on governments “to use the opportunity in 2020 to reflect the highest possible ambition in response to the urgency of addressing climate change… Re-emphasizes with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation efforts in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”(Emphasis in original)

Our 2020 climate calendar is busy.  Nations that “are in a position to do so” are to table their new targets in spring.  This is to allow number crunching and review of whether the new aggregate emission pathway can hold to 1.5 degrees.  United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has called on leaders to come to a special session at the UN on April 22, to table their nation’s new targets.

April 22, 2020 is the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day.  Guterres is clearly hoping for some gathering political momentum.

The COP itself will take place in November in Glasgow.  If there is to be any hope of averting a climatic meltdown and runaway global warming, the 2020 NDC’s have to be at least double what they are now.

That is the direction that the European Union is trying to put in place in its Green New Deal. The European Commission tabled it in the EU Parliament during COP25.

I heard quite a few ministers at COP speculate that if the EU can get its ducks in a row for the GND, it could spark real action at COP26. There is speculation of an EU deal with the Peoples Republic of China. The 15th conference of parties to the biodiversity convention (yes, other treaties continue with their COPs) will take place in October 2020 in Kunming, China.  That creates a high level opportunity for China to also improve on its climate commitments.

If the EU and China are able to ink a deal for substantial cuts in GHG before we get to COP26 and Glasgow, that could start bending the emissions curve toward a stable earth system.

So now is the time for a major push on Trudeau, Wilkinson and the whole cabinet, for a significant increase in climate targets – to at least 60% below 2005 levels by 2030.  Announcing it early in 2020 would have a major impact on the web of relationships and negotiating positions leading to COP26 in Scotland.

So, next week, what New Year’s Resolutions will get us there.

Happy New Year!

Love and thanks!

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