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Insights into Editorial: Mitigating a crisis: On COP26 Glasgow climate meet

 

current affairs

 

Context:

The COP 26 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be hosted by the UK from 31st october to 12th November.

Heads of state from at least 120 countries are expected to convene in Glasgow for the 26th meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP).

The year 2020 was to have been an important year in the COP calendar as most of the major economies were expected to review the actions undertaken so far in meeting voluntary targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015.

To this end, it has sent emissaries and multiple delegations to several countries to coax them into committing to some sort of a deadline or a ‘net zero’ timeline by when their emissions would peak and eventually abate.

 

About Conference of Parties (COP):

The Conference of Parties comes under the UNFCCC which was formed in 1994. The UNFCCC was established to work towards stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. COP is the apex decision-making authority of UNFCCC.

The UNFCCC has 198 parties including India, China and the USA. COP members have been meeting every year since 1995.

It laid out a list of responsibilities for the member states which included: Formulating measures to mitigate climate change. Cooperating in preparing for adaptation to the impact of climate change. Promoting education, training and public awareness related to climate change.

 

COP1 to COP25:

  1. COP members have been meeting every year since 1995. The UNFCCC has 198 parties including India, China and the USA.
  2. The first conference (COP1) was held in 1995 in Berlin. At COP3 held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the famous Kyoto Protocol was adopted.
  3. It commits the member states to pursue limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It entered into force on 16 February 2005 and there are 192 Parties in the Kyoto Protocol.
  4. India hosted the eighth COP from October 23 to November 1, 2002 in New Delhi.
  5. The conference laid out seven measures including, ‘strengthening of technology transfer in all relevant sectors, including energy, transport and the promotion of technological advances through research and development and the strengthening of institutions for sustainable development.’
  6. One of the most important conferences, COP21 took place from November 30 to December 11, 2015, in Paris, France.
  7. Member countries agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.’

 

What do we need to achieve at COP26?

  1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:

  1. accelerate the phase-out of coal
  2. curtail deforestation
  3. speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  4. encourage investment in renewables.
  5. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats:

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:

  1. Protect and restore ecosystems
  2. Build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
  3. Mobilise finance

To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.

International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

  1. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

At COP26 we must:

  1. Finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
  2. Accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

 

Road map for reaching net zero by 2050 should be Global in scope:

  1. The transition to net zero is for and about people. It is paramount to remain aware that not every worker in the fossil fuel industry can ease into a clean energy job, so governments need to promote training and devote resources to facilitating new opportunities.
  2. Citizens must be active participants in the entire process, making them feel part of the transition and not simply subject to it.
  3. These themes are among those being explored by the Global Commission on People‐Centred Clean Energy Transitions, to examine how to enable citizens to benefit from the opportunities and navigate the disruptions of the shift to a clean energy economy.
  4. The pathway laid out in our Roadmap is global in scope, but each country will need to design its own strategy, taking into account its specific circumstances.
  5. There is no one‐size‐fits‐all approach to clean energy transitions. Plans need to reflect countries’ differing stages of economic development: in our pathway, advanced economies reach net zero before developing economies do.
  6. As the world’s leading energy authority, the IEA stands ready to provide governments with support and advice as they design and implement their own roadmaps, and to encourage the international co‐operation across sectors that is so essential to reaching net zero by 2050.

 

Way ahead steps to take for Net zero emissions:

  1. To limit global warming to 1.5°C, net zero emissions would have to be achieved by 2050 and emissions would need to be drastically cut by at least 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
  2. India and China are the major emitters of the world that haven’t committed to any 2050 deadline.
  3. Their argument, which has been consistent for many years, is that the climate crisis exists because of excess emissions by the developed West for more than a century.
  4. Any attempt at solving the crisis would involve the western countries doing much more than what they have committed to and, at the very least, making good on promises already enshrined in previous editions of the COP.
  5. As years of COP negotiations have shown, progress is glacial and the effort is more on delivering a headline announcement rather than genuine operationalisation of the steps that need to be taken.
  6. In real terms, for developed countries, complying with the demand by developing countries to pay reparations means shelling out sums of money unlikely to pass domestic political muster.
  7. And for developing countries, yielding to calls for ‘net zero’ means that governments such as India will appear as having caved into international bullying.

 

Conclusion:

The COP, despite all the media interest it generates, can at best incentivise adaptation that aids a transition to clean energy.

But even without immediately retiring fossil fuel assets, the world needs to frame a meaningful response to a warming globe.

The world has a huge challenge ahead of it to move net zero by 2050 from a narrow possibility to a practical reality.

Global carbon dioxide emissions are already rebounding sharply as economies recover from last year’s pandemic‐induced shock.

It is past time for governments to act, and act decisively to accelerate the clean energy transformation.