The hope of humanity in Glasgow
Through Thakur Sanskrit
Flash floods, droughts, forest fires, incessant rains, etc. We are now experiencing extreme weather conditions at all times. As global climate talks are already heading to a “point of no return,” the global community is scrambling to find solutions. It is in this context that the Conference of the Parties (COP), with its 197 signatory countries committed to reducing emissions, begins its annual session in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12.
From net zero and carbon credits to climate change finance and mitigation strategies, the conference will bring together world leaders to debate issues and also discuss the global stocktake, used to monitor implementation and assess progress. achieved by nations, against their promised goals. Before getting to the heart of the matter of the COP, it’s important to understand the story of how the world came to be on the brink of this man-made natural disaster. Although humans have always recreated the world as they wish and called it “development,” it balanced out due to weak economies of scale and the fact that humans lived in relative isolation.
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Gas, and more gas
But with boating prowess and technological advancements, the environmental damage saga began to gain momentum. It reached new heights with the industrial revolution, then the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continued to multiply over the decades.
The gases that normally helped maintain the temperature of the earth and support life forms began to grow in excess in the atmosphere, causing the global temperature to rise. To control this, it was decided that the temperature would be capped at 2 ° C and efforts would be made to keep it much lower at 1.5 ° C. But the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s scientific body analyzing climate change, warns that if the trend in emissions continues, it would become more difficult to cap emissions. He also predicted more extreme climate changes, placing humans at the epicenter of this debacle.
Irreversible climate change would prove detrimental to efforts to rebuild ecosystems and communities already affected by disasters and would prove to be an existential crisis for vulnerable communities (low islands, etc.). The impact on costs will also continue to increase with each wave, as it will become difficult to predict the next disaster in real time. Changes such as extreme heat waves, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, irregular crop cycles and reduced yields would become the norm. This environmental crisis is deeply linked to economic and social aspects with issues such as forced migration, water scarcity, business losses and loss of farmland.
COP26 and Emergency
Many efforts have been made to combat climate change. The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is important because it is closely monitoring the pandemic, and because it is time to take stock of the progress nations are making on their commitments to reduce emissions. emissions, as decided in the historic Paris Agreement. Originally scheduled for 2020, the COP has been postponed due to Covid and is taking place at a critical time when there is heightened awareness of climate change and the host country has committed to becoming net zero by 2050.
The concept of net-zero has gained a lot of ground, in which companies and countries commit to commit to a year, beyond which their emissions will not peak and will balance their emissions by removing an equivalent amount of GHG from the air. This is done through processes such as carbon sequestration (forests, oceans), carbon capture and storage.
International efforts to understand and mitigate climate change have been numerous, starting with the famous Kyoto Protocol which gave specific emission reduction targets to developed countries. An indirect way to achieve this was to purchase carbon credits (a tradable certificate that gives its holder the right to emit one tonne of CO2 or an equivalent GHG gas) from developing countries, which were not required to do the same. The financial benefit has helped developed countries continue to pollute and developing countries prosper, obtain better equipment and sometimes switch to cleaner technology.
The next big conference was COP15 (2009) in Copenhagen which brought together 110 country heads to commit $ 100 billion annually in climate finance for developing countries to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate additional climate risks. But that turned out to be a broken promise as rich countries kept their contributions in deficit. According to a report in Nature, only $ 80 billion was provided in 2019 and even less in previous years.
By the time of COP21 (2015), many developing countries had accumulated credits for future sales, but this turned out to be a wasted effort as this conference changed the entire carbon market, where previously credits accumulated have been rendered unnecessary. This remained a point of contention between developing and developed countries during the COP, as the two cried each other out.
The Paris Agreement, as the COP became famous, focused on building consensus among its 197 members and gave way to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These NDCs were voluntary and were to be developed by local governments to commit to reducing their emissions and switching to cleaner energy. Progress would be measured every five years and ambition would be increased to meet the goal of keeping global temperature well below 2 ° C above pre-industrial levels. Nations (or parties) must also reduce the amount of GHGs and invest in renewable energies (wind, solar, wave power). More robust carbon credit methods also had to be generated and new market mechanisms built.
Article 6 of the agreement, which outlines the NDC and linking carbon emissions trading systems, also allows low-emission countries to sell their remaining carbon allowances to larger emitters, with an overall cap on their emissions to ensure a net reduction. A global carbon price would be put in place based on supply and demand, which would make states pay the price in excess of their NDCs. Due to the nature of the article, which straddles economic, development and social activities, there was a lot of debate and complications with businesses and nations wanting a bigger slice of the pie. All the players are now impatiently awaiting COP26 to untangle it.
Big polluters get bigger
As developing countries still attempt to build their infrastructure, human capital and industrial institutions, all of which require energy and technologies which, unfortunately, still rely heavily on fossil fuels; nations are not ready to increase their NDCs. Developing countries, which even after development are still on the list of top polluters, have yet to reduce their emissions per capita (emissions per person).
China, which is at the top of the list of polluting countries, has decided to send a delegate and President Xi Jinping will do without. This seems to have already set the tone for how the negotiations will play out with China. Although it has set itself the goal of reaching net zero by 2060 and is investing heavily in renewable energy, it is still active in offshore coal mining and also making new investments there. This would undermine global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
The United States experienced turmoil when former President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement. He is back in the fold with the resignation of Joe Biden on the first day of his presidency and the pledge of a significant chunk of the $ 2 trillion plan over the next four years to be spent on building the industry. ‘clean energy. But the president goes to the conference without reaching a consensus at home on measures to combat climate change.
India, being in third place, has not yet revised the NDC. Although great impetus is given to solar power as a renewable energy source and sustainable development initiatives, India is still reluctant to commit to net zero, citing issues of hindering development .
Many countries face the same problem, as the cost of renewable technologies remains high and the technology has yet to infiltrate developed countries. But through cooperation and dialogue, the international community can use the conference to reduce friction points and focus on commonalities. Countries that have technologically advanced companies must be encouraged to pass the technology on to countries that can help them develop sustainably.
The clamor for more than the $ 100 billion pledged number is growing, as receiving parties even suggest $ 500 billion over five years with a solid payment schedule.
What more can we do
There can be more focus on net zero and more clarity on activities that can propel clean carbon sequestration. With more and more companies entering the net zero bet, there is a need for international standards of measurability. This can come after exhaustive research into local practices and standards. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement needs to be clearer, which can help the private and public sectors to align their activities with the carbon market scenario.
Increased dissemination of science goals will help companies meet their short- and long-term sustainability goals. Countries in urgent need of funding for mitigation projects find it difficult to attract the necessary funding. A proactive mechanism to detect and deliver to these locations is needed.
On the funding side, there is an urgent need for mechanisms to facilitate the funding process and bring transparency. The fiduciary-beneficiary relationship must be reorganized to adapt to current market conditions. More innovations will help the masses move towards sustainability.
Mitigation and adaptation should be the subject of deliberations, with clear strategies developed for the years to come. We need to have the right tools to measure the success of adaptation and mitigation because, without a well-defined yardstick to measure, we might be prone to repeat the mistakes of an adaptation strategy that does more harm than good or biased against marginalized parties. This can lead them to slip through the gaps in a well-intentioned but poorly implemented adaptation strategy.
(The author is pursuing an MBA in Sustainability and Management, University of Nalanda)