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Climate Change- UNFCCC COP26 Act Now!

Publication: Avenue Mail

Date: 2nd November, 2021

World leaders have gathered for the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences under the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from the 31st of October to 12th November 2021 in the city of Glasgow in Scotland, United Kingdom (partnering with Italy) to discuss climate change and the impact on the earth. Coinciding with the G-20 summit, more than 200 countries will put their heads together to tackle the largest impeding challenge to the human race. The meeting in the United Kingdom is the 26th COP meeting to discuss climate change, the first one held in Berlin in 1995. The last COP was held in 2019 in Madrid, Spain and due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the upcoming COP26 is being held after two years. The Paris agreement of 2015 had concluded a landmark agreement which set out the global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. but has yet not been realised in its entirety.

The challenges faced by the planet are the same or higher since the first Berlin COP in 1995. This year alone extreme weather conditions have ravaged the earth in the form of forest fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and a rise in global temperatures. As per a paper released by COP26 titled The UK COP26 Presidency Glasgow Imperative: Closing the Adaptation Gap and Responding to Climate Impacts states “this year alone, drought in southern Madagascar, flash flooding in Germany and China, and wildfires in Greece and the US are among events that are far more likely to have occurred due to our changing climate, with wide-ranging impacts on food harvests, livelihoods and tragically, life.

 

While no one is immune, it is the poorest countries that are at the frontline of climate impacts, and the most vulnerable, including young people, women and girls, people with disabilities, and indigenous peoples who are hardest hit. Global temperatures are currently at least 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement (2015) sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. However, many climate impacts are already locked in. These impacts will disproportionately affect those who are most vulnerable. Some will be able to adapt but many will not.”

COP26 states that the overarching ambition is that “the world needs to halve emissions over the next decade and reach net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century if we are to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.” The presidency of the COP aims to accelerate the transition from coal to clean power, protect and restore nature for the benefit of people and climate and accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles. The goals of the convention are to accelerate the phase-out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020, finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational), accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society and encourage investment in renewables.

The COP26 paper spells out the roadmap ahead namely “Building on initiatives launched, and responding to core issues raised under our Incoming Presidency, we are driving change through five pillars: i) Building resilience across all of society; ii) Effective Risk Management; iii) Transforming Finance; iv) Catalysing Locally Led Action; and v) Harnessing the power of nature elaborating that nature-based solutions, and protecting and restoring nature, are vital for increasing ecosystems’ and communities’ resilience and adapting to long-term climate trends and impacts. Healthy and resilient ecosystems reduce communities’ vulnerability by offering protection against climate disasters and safeguard global food security by ensuring that our land and food management systems can adapt to climate impacts.

While India (the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and is still largely dependent on coal and oil) rejected the net zero emissions target, India who was represented by minister Piyush Goyal said "developed nations have enjoyed the fruits of energy and they will need to go for net zero faster, so that developing nations have some carbon space. For now, there is no adequate technology to absorb large amount of clean energy into grids. There is a need to look at more technology and innovation before we can identify the year (for achieving net zero)".

Developed nations of the world have pledged millions of dollars to fight climate change. The COP26 paper notes “At the G7, partners committed to increase adaptation finance. Canada announced a doubling of their climate finance to CAN$5.3bn over the period to 2025, and Japan committed JPY6.5tn over this period, with Germany committing to deliver EUR6billion in climate finance per year by 2025. The US commitment at UNGA to double the trebling of adaptation finance announced in April, improves their adaptation finance commitment to $3bn and Japan and Canada have specifically committed to increasing the proportion of their finance going to adaptation. We welcome other recent contributions from Denmark and Sweden and are urging donors to communicate new pledges for adaptation finance to 2025, as part of the Germany-Canada led $100bn/yr delivery plan, encouraging providers to evidence how the level and proportion of adaptation finance will increase in the coming years” adding that financial institutions “Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are also committed to scale-up adaptation financing. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed to increasing its climate finance to $25 billion between 2020 and 2025, with the AfDB joining the World Bank in allocating 50% or more of funding to adaptation.”

The private sector top 200 companies of the world have already initiated numerous initiatives to manufacture and source sustainable products. The paper notes “the Coalition for Climate Resilient Infrastructure Investment (CCRI), a private sector-led initiative, encourages businesses and countries to apply climate risk pricing tools to make sure that resilience is at the core of decision making, attracting more private sector investment and supporting vulnerable communities. 120 institutions have now joined the coalition, holding over $20trillion in assets.” More than 90 CEOs of large multinational organizations, all members of the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, committed to reduce emissions by more than 1Gt* annually by 2030 and believe that businesses can do more if world leaders reach agreement at COP26 that would put us on a 1.5° pathway, thereby supporting world leaders in the decisions that they will take related to climate change, stated the World Economic Forum.

Though the Chinese and Russian Presidents have skipped the COP26, the Twitter handle of COP26 urges the world “On climate, the world will succeed, or fail, as one. Now is the time for real action.” The absence of key leaders from world powers has dented and dimmed the chance of success of the meeting. The COP President Alok Sharma doled out hope in his inaugural speech “So let’s come together over these two weeks and ensure that where Paris promised, Glasgow delivers”.

 

Only time will tell if the world leaders undertake responsible actions to save the planet.