Heads-of-state Comments on Climate Change

COP 26— Monday and Tuesday's sessions at COP included statements from well-known heads of state. Check out some of the eye-opening information regarding climate change progress—or lack thereof. 
Heads of State Comments on Climate Change
Plenary Sessions Monday & Tuesday, November 1-2, 2021 

Mike DeBusschere, P.E. Reporting
A&WMA Observer Delegate to the UNCCC Conference of the Parties 26, Glasgow, Scotland
Monday and Tuesday were almost exclusively devoted to short 3-4 minute statements from heads of state throughout the world about what their countries were doing to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to curb GHG emissions.  Most also commented how serious the situation had now become since five years had lapsed since the Paris Agreement. Here is a sampling of the statements from the two-day heads-of-state sessions. Most speakers were repeats from Sunday but exhibiting different roles from their opening ceremony positions.
Monday's session was opened by poet and activist Yursa Dalie Ward. Other speakers included:
  • Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of Great Britain – Stated temperature has changed with a speed and abruptness never before experienced. At a 4C temperature rise whole cities like Miami, Shanghai and New York will be lost. Britain has committed to:
    • All electric car sales by 2030
    • No coal generated electric power by 3040
    • Committed to getting the $100B going
  • Two island nation activists stating their countries will disappear at the current rate of emissions and temperature rise by 2050
  • Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN
    • “Either we stop it (climate change) or it stops us”
    • “A 2.7C increase is projected based on current emissions levels. Even if commitments are met we will still exceed 2C”
    • “Failure is a death sentence”
    • “The G20 represents 80% of global emissions”
    • “We are rapidly reaching tipping points, releasing severe feedback cycles”
    • Called for standardization of terminology for terms like-carbon neutral, zero emissions and revised 5-year plans with penalties and to go to 1-year plans if the 5 years NDCs are not met.
  • A film presentation titled “Earth COP” by the Bloomberg Climate organization was presented showing example 2021 climate related disasters from around the world.
  • Charles Windsor, HRH Prince of Wales – Highlighted the need for a military campaign type approach and referenced his Terra Cotta Market Study having 100 recommendations for mobilizing the $100B/yr adaptation fund.
  • Sir David Attenborough, Planet Earth & Other Nature Documentary Narrator
    • Gave a detailed presentation of rising CO2 atmospheric concentrations (we're at 414 ppm according to this presentation) vs the last 10,000 years when concentrations were stable within 250-300 ppm.
    • “We are already in trouble”
  • Mario Draghi Prime Minister of Italy
    • Climate change has cost Italy over $350B in damages/year
    • “Need country-based banks to share with multi-lateral banks (e.g. the World Bank) to provide private sector funding to speed up adaptation and innovative technologies”
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany  
    • “NDCs do not take us to agreed Paris goals”
    • “Germany has committed to a 60% reduction in GHGs from 2005.”
    • “Germany is committing $6B/yr by 2023.”
    • Called for an end to deforestation, stop financing coal-fired power generation and for a price on CO2 emissions, raising funds for reduction in GHGs
  • Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece – Stated the following:
    • Greece will decarbonize all shipping by 2030
    • Will reduce GHG emission by 55% by 2030
    • Will install 2 Gigawatts of wind power and thermal energy
    • Will phase out all coal power generation by 2030
    • Will create no-catch fishing zones in at last 10% of its seas
  • Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada – Relayed that the town of Luton in Canada hit a temperature of 49C (120F) this summer. He stated Canada has committed to:
    • Selling only zero carbon vehicles by 2035
    • Will cap oil & gas production to today's levels
    • Will achieve a zero net carbon electric generation network by 2035
  • Joseph Biden, President of the United States – You can get his entire presentation on almost any news feed, and the US NDC for 2050 was released Monday, but highlights included (if Congress approves his climate change plan):
    • Installation of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations
    • Cut GHGs by 50%-52% by 2030 from 2005 levels
    • Provide 4 times more support to developing countries for mitigation
    • Renew electric vehicle credits and provide solar and wind development incentives
  • Uhuru Kenyatta, Prime Minister of Kenya – has achieved 90% renewable energy use now.
  • Jae-in Moon, President of South Korea
    • “Return love to nature”
    • NDCs include a 40% GHG reduction by 2030 and net zero carbon by 2050, reforestation program, zero coal power generation by 2030, reduce GHGs from Korean industries abroad and reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030
    • Called for an annual Youth Climate Conference
  • Dennis Sasson Nguesso, President of the Congo – 15 countries of central Africa and Morocco have, through their peat bogs alone, removed 31 billion tons of carbon (equal to 3 years of global GHGs)
  • Ibrahim Solih, President of the Maldives  
    • “Because our existence is at stake, what will it take to listen to us?”
    • “The Maldives will cease to exist by the end of this century.”
    • “If the temperature rise goes to 2C, the Maldives will cease to exist.”
  • Laurentio Cortizo, President of Panama
    • “Of 193 UN member states only 3 have been declared carbon negative.”
    • “Panama's forests absorb more carbon than Panama emits.”
  • Janos Ader, Prime Minister of Hungary
    • “Must regain credibility”
    • “Action instead of PR stunts”
    • Stated Hungary will be carbon neutral by law in 2050.
There were at least another hundred heads of state appearing during the two days from all parts of the globe. The major themes from collectively were that we've missed the schedule, that 1.5C global average temperature rise will be very difficult to meet and even more so 2C will be hard to meet, that reforestation can play a major role in removing atmospheric carbon already there, and that the world must step up the pace for mitigation and technology spending if we are to achieve the huge reductions everyone has pledged to make by 2030 and 2050. It was generally acknowledged NDCs are not being met as planned, and that global GHGs have actually increased since the Paris Agreement five years ago.
The next few days will focus on revised NDCs, the global financial aid program, finalizing plans for protecting oceans, redefining meaning of carbon-neutral, zero carbon and how to monitor progress uniformly as we continue to the year 2030.
About the Author. Mike DeBusschere, P.E. was President of A&WMA from June 2000 through December 2001. Before being elected President, he served as Section Council Chair and in several Board and leadership positions. He is a licensed chemical engineer and is President of Kentuckiana Engineering Company, an environmental consulting firm in Louisville, Kentucky since 1996 specializing in ISO program and project verification including those for GHGs. Before entering private practice, he was Acting Air Branch Chief of Region IV EPA, and led EHS regional programs at Camp Dresser & McKee, ERM and TRC. DeBusschere is an A&WMA Fellow


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