COP26: Will the world come to a consensus on climate action?

Crucial meet begins Sunday in Glasgow: 100% efforts towards climate justice required to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050

Hari Hara Mishra | October 30, 2021


#COP26   #climate change   #climate action   #UNFCCC   #global warming  


From Sunday, October 31st, 25,000 people from 200 countries, including more than 100 world leaders, are meeting in Glasgow, UK, for the 26th session of the Conference of Parties, popularly called COP26. The world is warming because of fossil fuel emissions caused by humans. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments across the globe agree that urgent collective action is needed. Extreme weather events linked to climate change include heatwaves, floods, and forest fires and these are  intensifying. Air pollution affects the health of tens of millions of people and unpredictable weather causes untold damage to homes and livelihoods across the globe. India is no exception. Prolonged droughts dry up water resources and affect food supply and nutrition.

For this conference, all these 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions as  agreed upon in 2015  under the Paris Agreement and to make changes to keep global warming "well below" 2C above pre-industrial levels – and to try aim for 1.5C – so that we avoid a climate catastrophe. For this to happen, we have to reduce emission by half by 2030  and aim at net-zero emission by 2050.

However,  it is easier said than done. Just an example, we must rapidly phase out coal power, and all countries should commit to not opening or financing any new coal-fired power stations across the world. But two large economies like India and China depend on coal for around 70% of the electricity production. In India recently a temporary coal supply problem raised power outage alarms. With economy opening up post-Covid and to meet growth aspirations, more and not less power is required. The migration to alternative energy has its own challenges including huge capital investment.

High-income countries promised in 2009 to deliver $100 billion a year for five years from 2020 to help low-income countries pivot away from fossil fuels and protect against climate breakdown. The target is not yet fulfilled. The migration from fossil fuel infrastructure to renewable will require trillions of dollars, and the readiness of developed countries to finance part of it will determine the pace and progress of climate change in the future.

In addition to fossil fuel, the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss are intertwined. Sustainable land use and action on restoring forests and other critical ecosystems are important to restore ecological balance. Further, to clean up our air and reduce carbon emissions, countries have to plan long-term focussing on reducing sale of new petrol and diesel cars and phasing out the existing ones. This too poses huge logistics and infrastructure challenge.

There have been 25 climate conferences so far starting from first conference in 1979 in Geneva. While there has been talks and more  talks, the progress so far has been too little, too late. Developing countries tend to pollute less per head of population and are not responsible for most emissions in the past. But they experience some of the worst effects of climate change. Now the world looks to Glasgow for deliberating on and initiating an inclusive approach to climate change at multilateral levels. A just climate order mandates the developed nations to partner the developing nations in taking into account socio-economic variables in policy design and implementation towards net zero by 2050.

Mishra is a policy analyst and columnist.

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