New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) Is the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — probably as important as the one in 2015 when the universal and legally-binding Paris Agreement was adopted by nearly every nation — to speed up bolder and more ambitious climate action, amidst the ongoing geopolitical conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East still crucial?
World leaders, ministers, negotiators and civil society members will be gathering for two weeks in Dubai for adopting crucial steps to take action and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach because climate change often exacerbates other crises and threatens the security of people.
Geopolitics and fossil interests are evident everywhere in climate negotiations, a climate observer told IANS.
The key takeaways at the COP28 include climate finance, which is provided and mobilised by developed countries for climate action in developing countries. With temperature records being repeatedly broken and the impact felt worldwide, Global Stocktake, the mechanism that began at COP 26, through which progress under the Paris Agreement is assessed, and the Loss and Damage Fund, established at COP27, need to be reviewed.
With two weeks to go for the 2023 Climate Change Conference (COP28) that starts, under the presidency of the UAE, one of the world’s top 10 oil-producing nations, the world leaders’ summit on December 1-2 seems packed with 167 countries including India.
However, China and the US, the world’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, are not on the schedule but Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia and Iran are among those who presumably will detail their climate plans.
Among the top 10 polluters, China, for example, generates around 30 per cent of all global emissions, while the US is responsible for almost 14 per cent. In the ranking, India ranked third, with 2,654 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), followed by Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
So far 196 countries, ratified or otherwise, joined the legally-binding Paris climate treaty, representing more than 96 per cent of global greenhouse gas producing nations.
Nearly every nation made a commitment to tackle climate change and strengthen their efforts to decarbonise their economies.
To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43 per cent by 2030.
India officially submitted two of the four targets announced by Prime Minister Modi in 2021 at COP26 as part of its August 2022 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) update. These two targets are to reduce its emission intensity by 45 per cent below the 2005 levels by 2030 and to increase the share of non-fossil power capacity to 50 per cent by 2030.
According to the updated NDC, to put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation, including through a mass movement for ‘LIFE’ — ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ is a key to combating climate change.
Despite decades of warnings from the scientific community, the most starling facts in the latest State of Climate Action 2023 report show global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees are failing across the board, with recent progress made on every indicator, except electrical vehicles, lagging significantly behind the pace and scale necessary.
Also, a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says the abundance of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere once again reached a new record last year and there is no end in sight to the rising trend.
Global average concentrations of CO2, the most important greenhouse gas, in 2022 were a full 50 per cent above the pre-industrial era for the first time. They continued to grow in 2023.
As long as emissions continue, CO2 will continue accumulating in the atmosphere leading to global temperature rise.
However, an optimistic COP28 presidency believes this Conference of Parties (COP), comprising 197 countries who have committed to act on climate change and regularly report on their progress, will be a milestone moment when the world will take stock of its progress on the Paris Agreement.
The first Global Stocktake (GST) will provide a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015. This will help align the efforts on climate action, including measures that need to be put in place to bridge the gaps in progress.
Sounding an alarm, a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report this month said progress on climate adaptation is slowing on all fronts when it should be accelerating to catch up with rising climate change impacts and risks.
The ‘Adaptation Gap Report 2023: Underfinanced. Underprepared — Inadequate investment and planning on climate adaptation leaves world exposed’ finds that the adaptation finance needs of developing countries are 10-18 times as big as international public finance flows — over 50 per cent higher than the previous range estimate.
However, a confident UAE presidency says it will work to ensure that the world responds with a clear action plan.
Dr Sultan Al-Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology for the UAE and Managing Director and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, will preside over the negotiations where fossil fuel phase-out, the main cause of climate change, is likely to receive much attention.
Responding to the OECD’s statement that developed nations may have achieved their overdue promise of $100 billion to help poorer countries cope with climate change in 2022, Al-Jaber told IANS, “I continue calling on donor countries to deliver on the $100 billion in annual climate finance to developing countries.
“Achieving this milestone is essential towards rebuilding trust between the Global North and Global South. The announcement by Germany and Canada is encouraging, but there is still room for further ambition.
“Rebuilding trust requires donor countries to live up to their past commitments. This includes an ambitious replenishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and operationalising the fund and funding arrangements of the Loss and Damage Fund at COP28.”
However, the activists have been demanding that the Loss and Damage Fund must be established as a new and independent entity under the UNFCCC.
Also civil society organisations, particularly those led by women, youth, indigenous peoples, and frontline communities must have a significant role in decision-making regarding the Loss and Damage Fund.
Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, told IANS that COP28 is a critical moment to restore trust in the multilateral process, which has been severely undermined by the inaction and unfulfilled commitments of wealthy nations.
“Their dismal record in providing climate finance has resulted in significant delays, contributing to catastrophic climate impacts across the globe.
“This conference must mark a turning point where wealthy countries confront their historical accountability, abandoning deceptive tactics in favour of genuine support for developing nations. It’s imperative they commit to supporting a just transition away from fossil fuels and robustly tackle the climate crisis, upholding the principles of equity, justice, and human rights.”
In the run up to the COP28, a consensus between the US and China was reached to back a new global renewables target and work together on methane and plastic pollution.
To remain on target, science tells the world that emissions must be halved by 2030. Now the globe has another seven years to meet that goal.
COP28 UAE is a prime opportunity to rethink, reboot, and refocus the climate agenda.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at email@example.com)