Awareness in our island of its place in the world and the need to fulfill our role in international initiatives is at a high level. In November, the United Nations will be holding its 26th climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Nearly every country in the world will be attending and it is being suggested that this may well be the last real opportunity that the world can bring global warming under control. In its second ‘State of the Islands’ Review released by Critical Economics, the focus is on the crucial issue of climate change
‘All the islands monitored by Critical Economics may now have to concentrate more on mitigation measures to physically protect each of their communities from actual damage caused by inevitable sea level rise and the increased frequency of extreme weather events and storm surge’Chris Brock, Critical Economics
At the 21st conference held six years ago in Paris, all countries attending that event resolved to work with each other to limit global warming to well below 2°C and aim for 1.5°C.
Each country will now be indicating how they intend to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and, more importantly, what decisions are being taken to substantially reduce emissions during the next decade. These will focus on:
- accelerating the phasing out of fossil fuel use • halting deforestation
- speeding up the switch to electric vehicles
- encouraging investment in renewable energy
The next decade is therefore critical and while nations such as China and United States have a vital role to play in reversing global warming, momentum has been lost by:
- the US government’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement which was only reversed this year
- the Covid pandemic which has had such a major impact since the beginning of 2020, and
- the indication from China that it can only start achieving a reduction in fossil fuel emissions from 2030 onwards.
What is clear is that the climate is already changing and it will continue to do so with devastating effects even as the world reduces emissions. In just the last few months, there have been record temperatures recorded in Canada and United States, catastrophic floods in Germany, Belgium, and in parts of China, and forest fires in southern Europe.
In its latest report published in August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected a sea level rise (relative to the period 1986 to 2005) of up to 0.77m by 2100 as a result of a 1.5°C increase in global warming. This would be higher if an increase of 2°C in global warming is recorded. The Panel has also emphasised that average sea levels will continue to rise beyond 2100 even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C during this century.
It is fully recognised that islands around the world are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to the direct implications of climate change. As far as the islands monitored by Critical Economics
are concerned, apart from Cayman which is yet to publish its latest climate change mitigation strategy, the policies adopted by Bermuda, Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey on the whole fall within the six similar categories illustrated in the graphic below.
While in overall global terms, the contribution that these islands can collectively make in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is very small, it is still incumbent upon these communities to achieve similar reductions on a ‘per capita’ basis.
The speed at which actions are adopted to reduce global warming will depend upon what decisions are taken at COP26 in November. However, once this conference is over, there is a probability that jointly agreed actions will again be superseded by the many geopolitical tensions currently existing worldwide and by the ongoing economic and social challenges prevailing as a result of the Covid pandemic. These could lead to a division of priorities with less emphasis being placed on climate change and result in global warming of at least a minimum of 1.5°C happening much sooner than projected with a 2°C increase being more likely by 2100.
Consequently, all the islands monitored by Critical Economics may now have to concentrate more on mitigation measures to physically protect each of their communities from actual damage caused by inevitable sea level rise and the increased frequency of extreme weather events and storm surge. All have densely populated areas vulnerable to these impacts. Therefore, the capital infrastructure costs associated with the additional protection of low-lying coastal areas as well as port and other key facilities will undoubtedly be high and the work will take a considerable time to plan and roll out. Such planning and investment may not necessarily be at the top of islands’ existing climate change agendas as sea level rise is perceived to be a challenge to be addressed only in the long-term.
The latest Critical Economics Review can be found at www.criticaleconomics.com/reviews