Climate Commitments Still Fall Short

Greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new record in 2020. On October 25, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicated that “the abundance of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Once again reached a new record on last year, and the annual growth rate registered was higher than the average for the period 2011-2020 “.

According to this UN agency, the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19 “did not have any obvious effect on atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases or their rates of increase, although there was a temporary decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. new issues “.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant of the six greenhouse gases, reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) in 2020 and stands at 149% of pre-industrial levels.

As carbon dioxide (CO2) is a long-lived gas, “the currently observed temperature level will persist for several decades even though emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero.”

As for methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), their concentrations were equivalent, respectively, to 262% and 123% of the levels of 1750, the year chosen to represent the moment in which human activity began to alter the natural balance of the Earth.

If the current growth in the concentration of greenhouse gases is maintained, the increase in temperature at the end of this century will far exceed the objective established in the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 or a maximum of 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels.

For its part, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has declared, on October 26, that the world is left on track to a global temperature increase of at least 2.7 ° C for this century, according to the Emissions Gap Report 2021.

The report indicates that the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and other voluntary commitments assumed by 2030 (the mandatory targets by groups of countries of the Kyoto protocol were abandoned in 2015 in the Agreement of Paris), they only avoid an additional 7.5% of the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions forecast for 2030, compared to the previous round of commitments.

To stay on track towards the 2 ° C target of the Paris Agreement, emissions reductions of 30% are needed from the current roughly 60 GtCO2e. And 55% to reach the 1.5 ° C target. According to UNEP, promises to achieve emissions neutrality are still imprecise and inconsistent with most NDCs by 2030.

The Piñera government also set out on October 26 its goals in the matter, which will obviously have to be reviewed in March. By 2025, it proposes the removal of 65% of coal-fired generation from the national matrix, adding between 10,000 to 15,000 hectares of protected urban wetlands, establishing a mandatory recyclability eco-labeling and that 100% of pre-2020 marine protected areas have management plans.

By 2030, it proposes that 80% of electricity generation come from renewable sources, the increase in 50% of the network of glacier stations, implement zero-emission fleets in large-scale mining and that 100% of the urban population have access to health services.

By 2040, it proposes that all the power plants be withdrawn or reconverted to coal, that green hydrogen is 20% of the country’s fuel matrix, that 100% of buses, taxis and collectives are zero emission and that the entry of waste in seas and beaches be reduced by 40%.

By 2050, it postulates that the energy matrix is ​​100% zero emissions, that emissions from industry and mining be reduced by 70% and that 30% to 50% of threatened species have Recovery Plans.

This plan is insufficient, although it has the merit of existing. The heart of the issue in Chile is that most of the electricity is still generated by coal – fired plants – the ones that emit the most CO2 into the atmosphere – while transportation and various activities continue to be based on the use of hydrocarbons.

The coal-fired plants should leave the system hopefully in 2025 and in any case not beyond 2030, and not towards 2040 as proposed by the government, which will require heavy investments in transmission systems to allow a greater incidence of solar energy and wind power, and invest in geothermal energy to ensure the stability of the system.

On the other hand, the electricity generation distributed in homes for home use, the electrification of public and private transport, as well as the use of green hydrogen-based batteries in mining and other transport activities, should be accelerated, along with increasing recycling.

Of waste and the reduction of the use of goods with non-recyclable waste, including avoiding the consumption of goods with planned obsolescence.

What is at stake is moving to a new development strategy that allows greater equitable and sustainable well-being of current generations and the very survival of future generations, under the currently known conditions.