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Politicians’ climate promises will only cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2050

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Issue 2776
Insulate Britain protesters demand action on climate change
Insulate Britain protesters demand action on climate change (Pic: Guy Smallman)

World leaders’ plans to limit global carbon emissions will fall 60 percent short of even their wholly inadequate target to reach net zero by 2050.

The statistics come from the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organisation established by the OECD group of richer countries’ governments.

Environmentalists have criticised it in the past for underestimating the role of renewables to produce energy and for boosting fracking.

But it’s right that carbon emissions would decrease by just 40 percent by the middle of the century if countries stick to their present climate pledges.

In fact, even these weak promises may be dumped in the rush to restore profits after the pandemic. In the days leading up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, the news was of governments rushing to burn coal to produce electricity, not turning towards renewables.

That’s one reason why 2021 is set to see the second-largest increase in CO2 emissions in history.

The IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol thinks the way to a future without fossil fuels lies with using capitalist methods. He urges politicians at the Cop26 summit to say to corporations, “If you invest in old energy sources, dirty energy sources, you are risking to lose your money. If you invest in clean energy, you’ll make handsome profits.”


But that’s a method that has utterly failed in recent decades. Major corporations continue to evade the meagre financial curbs on the most polluting activists, and the profits are greater than any special taxes or even fines.

The Tory government is now debating how much help to give businesses that use the highest amounts of gas. Ministers will bail out major industrial players while abandoning ordinary people to fearsomely higher prices to heat their homes and cook their food.

Why Cop will fail the planet
Why Cop will fail the planet
  Read More

On the same day the IEA report was issued, the Environment Agency in Britain said that it’s a case of “adapt or die” in the face of climate change.

The government agency’s chair, Emma Howard Boyd, warned that deadly events such as the flooding in Germany this summer would hit Britain. She said Britain had to make itself resilient to the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing.

The agency added that it cannot protect everyone from increasing flood and coastal risks. And that traditional flood defences will not be able to prevent all flooding and coastal erosion.

The inevitable effects of climate change that have already happened will require urgent investment in more defences and more resilience.

But the crucial shift is to take action to halt further climate change. For the present system, “adaptation” means capitalism adapting to the problems that capitalism has caused without interfering with the relentless accumulation required for profit-making.

That’s disastrous.

Join the marches for climate action on Sat 6 Nov as the Cop26 meets. Glasgow 12 noon, Kelvingrove Park, London 12 noon, Bank of England Other cities at

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