The day is November 13. There is commotion both inside and outside the Scottish event campus as a meeting runs almost 24 hours over its scheduled time. The fate of the earth hangs in balance. Would it be enough?
So, what exactly is this (to be honest, a bit tawdry) affair I’m dramatizing? In its efforts to construct a global response to climate change, the United Nations brings almost every country together each year to conduct global climate summits called COPs or ‘Conference of the parties’. This year marked the 26th annual summit and was held in Glasgow, giving it the names COP26 and Glasgow climate pact.
COP26 aimed to work out the rules and procedures for the execution of the Paris agreement which hadn’t been defined clearly earlier. The new adopted pact targets to keep global temperature rise down to 1.5 degrees Celsius with the Paris Agreement target of 2 degrees being no longer appropriate to the scale of the climate emergency.
This was the first time that a COP mentioned coal and the need to gradually phase-it-out. But this language was thought to be too direct and clear and was subsequently changed to phasing out of ‘unabated’ coal power and ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. In a last moment’s rather dramatic turn of events, India in consultations with China, US and UK introduced an amendment to change the phrase ‘phase-out’ to ‘phase-down’, siting the reason that coal cannot be eliminated. This move has been abhorred by other nations and climate activists alike as it has led to a diluted deal.
Much attention was given to ‘adaptation’- the strategy to prepare for both the current and future effects of climate change. Because of their lower capacities, developing and small countries face the brunt of climate change and the pact has asked the developed world to at least double the funds available to them for adaptation by 2025 from 2019 levels. The current available amount is $15 billion and doubling it would mean $30 billion. But this is also largely insufficient as the UNEP estimates that the current cost of adaption for developing nations is $70 billion annually and will rise to $130-300 billion annually by 2030. While lengthy discussions took place on the issue of compensation for loss and damage to small countries, they were unfruitful with rich countries only agreeing to a ‘dialogue’ for funding of such activities.
In 2009, the developed nations undertook to mobilize at least $100 billion every year till 2020 for climate action. This promise was reaffirmed during the Paris agreement but was never fulfilled. The pact has expressed ‘deep regrets’ over the failure of the developed countries to deliver on their $100 billion promise. There is now a renewed commitment from the rich countries to adhere to this target in the 2020-2025 period and also generate increased flows thereafter. With economic slowdown in a post-pandemic world, these assurances seem improbable and fabled.
Two important achievements of the Glasgow pact have been its plurilateral agreements. 100 countries have agreed to cut down methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Methane is a significant greenhouse gas that stays in the atmosphere for a shorter duration than carbon but has a much higher temperature forcing quality- 28 to 34 times more. Another group of 100 countries have agreed to reverse deforestation by taking strong action towards illegal logging. Countries like Brazil and Indonesia which have forests that are some of the largest carbon sinks have participated in this agreement. India didn’t partake in either of these deals.
Glasgow on November 6, witnessed its largest protest since 2003 as climate activists came together to organize a march against the inadequate action being taken at the conference. London also saw major protests with about 10,000 people participating. Moments after the deal was announced Swedish teenage activist, Greta Thunberg dismissed it as ‘blah blah blah’. UN secretary general too warned that the deal ‘is not enough’ while British prime minister Boris Johnson perceived it to be ‘a big step forward’.
What are your views of the deal? Do you think it has been taken with the best climatic interests at heart or would you say that the entire ordeal has been rather anticlimactic?