Putting the planet’s temperature under control
At the climate change conference in Paris (COP21), back in 2015, all participating nations, including Serbia, agreed to cut their GHG emissions to keep the global temperature rise below 1,5°C. The commitments laid out in Paris have not been fulfilled, as the world’s total CO2 emissions continued to increase. The latest UN Report on climate change prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries warned that unprecedented changes have occurred across the whole of Earth’s climate system: in the atmosphere, in the oceans, ice floes, and on land. Some of the shifts are in motion now, while some - such as continued sea level rise – are already ‘irreversible’ for centuries to millennia, ahead.
COP 26 must now address two major concerns: what has been agreed that hasn’t been achieved since 2015, and how to further increase climate ambitions to reach the Paris Agreement targets and avoid the looming climate-induced disasters.
Serbia is expected to announce that it will cut emissions by 33% by 2030, a significant increase compared to the previous target of 9%.
The biggest push forward comes from the top three contributors to global GHG emissions, USA, China and EU. USA has re-joined the Paris Agreement and set its new target to lower GHG emissions by 52% by 2030. The EU promised to lower emissions by 55% by the same year, and China said it will cut its emissions in half and is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.
Reaching net zero global GHG emissions is not simple and will require major changes by all parties. Countries will need to stop relying on carbon to grow their economies. This can be done by improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewables, such as solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal energy. Afforestation, ensuring maximum usage of resources through circular economy and better waste management can also accelerate green transformation, as well as usage of cleaner technologies in industries and switching to electric vehicles.
Being ready for the inevitable
Reducing GHG emissions is necessary but is no longer enough. The climate is already changing and will continue to change even as we reduce emissions. Between 1999 and 2018 there have been nearly 500,000 fatalities and close to $3.5 trillion of economic losses due to climate impacts worldwide. In January this year UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for 50% of the total share of climate finance to be spent on building resilience and adapting to the effects of a warming world.
Climate change increases the risk of hot, dry weather and more intense and longer droughts that endanger farming and add fuel to the wildfires. Warmer weather also means more vapour in the atmosphere, resulting in heavier rainfall and flooding. These effects of climate change threaten the most people in poorer countries, as they lack the money to adapt.
That is why COP26 will ask the countries to work together to help those most affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, put warning systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient. One of the reasons that the conference is held in person, despite the pandemic, is to ensure that the voices of less developed countries are heard and that they get the much-needed support.
Adaptation is important for Serbia too, as it is situated in a region that warms up 1 degree faster that the global average. The country needs to adapt quickly to avoid economic losses due to extreme weather events that may amount to $13 billion by 2030. If nothing is done, agriculture as we know it today shall not be possible, while Serbia’s forestry, energy, transport, and infrastructure sector growth shall be slowed down.
With the Green Climate Fund support, UNDP is helping the Government of Serbia to develop the country’s first National Climate Change Adaptation Plan, with concrete actions for responding to the greatest climate risks in key economic sectors. For example, measures for protecting the agricultural yield that accounts for 7.5% of Serbia’s GDP, include increasing irrigation, switching to seeds resistant to drought, building more greenhouses and using more anti-hail nets and systems.