After a summer marked by extreme and devastating climatic events, on September 20 the UN is organizing a special summit to try to finally raise global climate ambition. But experts doubt the willingness of States to do what is necessary despite the obvious consequences of inaction.
If we needed a foretaste of what the lack of international firmness in the fight against climate change has in store for us, the summer of 2023 has revealed, with deaths and destruction, what awaits us over the next few years. decades. A succession of events that the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, could not have foreseen when he announced the holding of the Climate Ambition Summit in December 2022, but which will serve as a backdrop to this meeting expected in New York.
However, Mr. Guterres’ message was already unequivocal: the States which appear at the podium will have to announce new “credible and serious” climate commitments, such as more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. , plans to exit fossil fuels or promises of climate financing. There will be no room for “greenwashing” or “recycling” of measures already announced, he warned.
Director General of the Climate Action Network, Caroline Brouillette welcomes the formula chosen for this summit. “What Antonio Guterres says is very clear: we will not let you say that you are a climate leader if you do not adopt robust measures in favor of the transition and the exit from fossil fuels. »
She recalls that the recent G20 summit in India clearly demonstrated the extent of the gap between scientific evidence in relation to climate reality and the willingness of States to take note of it. The final communiqué of the meeting of member countries, responsible for 80% of global GHG emissions, did not even mention a future exit from fossil fuels.
Will the tragedies experienced across the globe in recent months mark the turning point desired by many? “Some actors will evoke these catastrophic events to try to bring climate change back onto the political agenda. We will undoubtedly refer to it in the speeches. And António Guterres, who always has strong words to describe things, will surely try to mobilize the troops to go further,” estimates Maya Jegen, professor in the Department of Political Science at UQAM.
“But I have doubts that these events will prompt policymakers to do more. “I’m not sure it’s going to radically change what we’ve seen so far,” she adds. She cites as an example the blockages which mark, year after year, the United Nations climate conferences, the “COPs”. The issue of climate finance, for example, remains unresolved, particularly with regard to the demands of developing countries. They wish to obtain compensation for the “loss and damage” they are already suffering due to climate change.
His colleague from the Department of Strategy, Social and Environmental Responsibility Mark Purdon adds that climate ambition is currently suffering from multiple “tensions” between the United States and China, two countries which are also the main global polluters, with nearly 45 % of GHG emissions.
In short, there will be something new at the New York summit, but the commitments will remain “insufficient”, already predicts Alexandre Gajevic Sayegh, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Laval University.
“The idea that climate change is a problem of the future is finally starting to be put aside. Extreme events, which are happening faster than expected, are making people understand that they will suffer the impacts of the climate crisis and that it will be very expensive. But it is not enough, because decision-makers are still under pressure from fossil fuel companies,” he laments.
“Canada is a good example of this logic,” adds the climate policy specialist. The current government campaigned on the climate issue, it gave hope to the world, but the fossil fuel industry is still extremely present and powerful. The proof: we are not capable of having a discussion on the exit from fossil fuels in Canada. How, in this context, can we imagine that other large producers will have such a discussion? »
A point of view shared by Caroline Brouillette. “The Trudeau government must break with the current approach where, on one hand, we adopt policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but on the other, we let the oil and gas industry continue its destructive projects. We must hold responsible this fossil fuel sector which, for years, has been doing everything to slow down climate action in the country,” she argues.
She therefore urges the federal government to announce in New York how it intends to impose the capping and reduction of GHG emissions linked to production in the oil and gas sector, a measure that was promised during the 2021 electoral campaign. The government Trudeau, targeted by intense industry lobbying efforts, promises to present details of these regulations by the end of the year.
Oil and gas companies nevertheless see an overall bright future in Canada, with production investments expected to reach $40 billion this year.
Globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts an increase in oil demand this year. This should reach 101.8 million barrels per day. And after reaching a record level in 2022, coal consumption (the worst fossil fuel) has also seen growth so far in 2023.
This therefore means that the energy transition that we have been talking about for years is still slow to materialize, despite sufficiently significant growth in the production of renewable energies for the demand for fossil fuels to begin to decrease “in the years to come », underlined this week the AIE.
In this context, Alexandre Gajevic Sayegh fears the influence of the fossil fuel industry during the next UN climate conference (COP28), which will be held in December in the United Arab Emirates. Companies in the sector had sent more than 600 lobbyists to COP27 in 2022. “These companies have repeatedly demonstrated to us in the past their desire to deny the problem of climate change, but also that their objective is to make profits until ‘until the planet burns. »
While she understands the “cynicism” expressed by some, particularly in relation to the fact that COP28 is chaired by the head of an oil multinational, Maya Jegen believes that we should not confine ourselves to this position.
“If we become too cynical, we stop wanting to do things and let it go. But we know that we can act to change things. These summits are not useless. People can meet and exchange ideas. Several cities and regions are grappling with problematic situations. If they can meet and discuss with others who are more advanced, that can be beneficial,” she argues.