Paris to Glasgow (on Climate Change) -DAWN

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CLIMATE conversations have been taking place since 1995 with limited success. The turning point in the talks took place in 2015 when the historic Paris Agreement was signed by 196 countries.

As the French foreign minister and chair of COP21, Laurent Fabius, asserted, “The success in Paris was made possible by a strong process of environmental diplomacy.” He said, “This is no time for climate fatalism. We need science, societies and states to be in alignment for our crucial next steps.”

Sciencehas made progress on many fronts. Scientific reports generated on climate chan­­ge and biodiversity have upped the ante for urgent action. Society has played a vital role in raising social consciousness and increasing the bandwidth of the climate message. State­sare lagging behind in meeting commitments because climate negotiations are driven by climate politics in which commitments made by countries are influenced by the limited time horizon of political parties who see the climate agenda more through the prism of electoral politics and not so much as a commitment to global climate stabilisation.

COP26 was preceded by the Climate Am­­b­ition Summit held in December 2020. Despite stronger climate policy and higher ambition in the latest national pledges, there is still a large gap between near-term commitments under the Paris Agreement and what is needed to keep temperature increase within 1.5 degrees Celsius. The other two major pre-COP26 events include the Kunming Conv­en­tion on Biodiversity and the G20 summit in Rome. The outcome of both did not reflect any positive developments. Biodiver­sity losses have not decreased and the capacity of forests and oceans to absorb emissions continues to be compromised by unabated marine pollution, and cutting down mature trees that have higher capacity for carbon sequestration.

We are left with just nine years to prevent a climate catastrophe.

COP26, postponed by one year due to Covid 19, was held in the backdrop of an escalating global climate crisis and in the wake of one of the most devastating pandemics that exposed the fragility of governance system and societal response to crisis, raising questions about the existing GDP-based economic model for measuring development indicators. It was hoped that this realisation would inject a new approach in addressing threat multiplier factors that threaten the global climate regime responsible for altering Earth’s atm­o­s­­phere since the mid-19th century. Within 100 years the use of fossil fuel has taken the parts per million of carbon-dioxide from 275 ppm to 419 ppm putting at risk the future of all life systems.

In this context the success of the Glasgow COP26 depended on:

  1. Finalising technical issues carried over from COP25 which include funding for loss and damage and carbon market mechanisms.

  2. Delivery of $100 billion finance targets and setting the next target for climate finance by 2025.

  3. Galvanising support for common time frames for the Nationally Determined Contri­butions (NDCs) with clear indicators and metrics in order to check real-time progress on commitments.

The Glasgow Summit was unsuccessful in reaching consensus on any these critical issues. Meanwhile, the harsh reality remains that the world is left with just nine years and 400 gigatonnes of carbon budget to prevent a climate catastrophe. Unfortunately, govern­m­e­nts are directing large public finance for extracting coal, oil and gas since Covid-19 to make up for losses and spur economic recovery.

Big emitters like China and India have extended timelines for net zero target beyond 2050 while Australia refuses to cut down on the use of coal. The new pledges are expected to cut glo­bal greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by about 2.9bn tonsof CO2 equivalent. How­­­ever, an additional 25-28 GTCO2 is neededto put the world on track by 2100. With conditional and unco­nditional NDCs, this goal is fast slipping out of reach.

Pakistan presented a revised NDC that balances ambition with conditional and non-conditional commitments. As part of G77, Pakistan’s position is aligned with the bloc. The common theme is provision of money to support poorer countries for meeting mitigations and adaptation targets. This means going back to the spirit of the Paris Agreement that was built on a moral mandate leaving no one behind.

Without climate justice and with continuing atrophy in international relations, the Paris Agreement runs the risk of unravelling. The announcement by the US and China to collaborate on climate change is a positive development but not enough to avert climate catastrophe.

If the success of the Paris Agreement was pegged on environmental diplomacy, then the future of global peace and security will depend on climate diplomacy. It will be in the interest of planetary stabilisation if the Global North accommodates the needs of the Global South and both move in tandem to save the planet.

The writer is chief executive of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.