New Delhi: The United Nations climate summit that begins in Glasgow on Sunday could be the last chance for humanity to tackle the catastrophic changes due to unrestrained global warming, scientists and activists have said.
Under current national climate commitments, the world is on track for a temperature increase of 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the United Nations Environment Programme warned on October 25, which is much above the goal of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement to keep it below 2 degrees compared with the beginning of the industrial era.
Unless countries agree to steeply cut carbon emissions, global temperatures will rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 10 to 20 years compared with pre-industrial times, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s largest group of climate experts, had said in its scientific assessment in August.
Scientists, activists and environmentalists believe that the Glasgow summit, also known as COP26, could be the last opportunity to keep global warming to agreed upon limits.
Over 25,000 delegates are expected to gather in Glasgow for the climate talks. While one of the main agenda is keeping the 1.5 degrees goal alive, countries will have to negotiate and agree on several critical issues like carbon markets, loss and damage and long-term climate finance.
In the previous conference held in Madrid in 2019, countries were unable to reach an agreement on new market mechanisms. Several other issues were left unresolved as well, including common time frames for implementation of voluntary national pledges, long-term climate finance and transparency on climate action, all of which will have to be resolved at COP26.
“I very much want to support Parties (nations) to deliver on the matters you have told me are key political components of a Glasgow outcome,” Alok Sharma, president of COP26 and British parliamentarian, wrote in a note on October 28.
COP26 begins with the World Leaders Summit on November 1 and 2, which will be attended by over 120 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Usually, the leaders’ summit is held in the second week of the annual talks. The world leaders are this time expected to set the tone for COP26 and declare their intent of containing global warming even before negotiations start.
At the Rome summit of the G20 nations held on October 30-31, the climate crisis featured high on the agenda. G20 leaders, including Modi, are expected to reach a consensus on how to deal with the crisis and transition to a low-carbon economy.
“This time, world leaders will set the agenda for COP26, which is a positive development,” Sunita Narain, director general of advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment(CSE), said at a media briefing. “Over the past few decades, climate negotiations were going nowhere. COP26 must reclaim its leadership and the trust of people from across the world, both rich and poor. It must not be lost to the usual prevarication in negotiations and the tantrums and posturings of pusillanimous leaders.”
For India, the two critical issues are climate finance and carbon markets. India seeks a level playing field for all countries by pushing for climate finance and technology transfer, environment minister Bhupender Yadav, who is the leader of India’s delegation, had told HT in an interview on October 29.
Carbon markets are critical for India because trading can lead to both a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and can generate climate finance, he said.
Carbon markets are touted to be one of the most efficient tools to keep mean global temperature rise to under 2 degrees by capping global emissions globally after 2020. Simply put, when a country limits carbon emissions through a project, it creates carbon credits, which can be sold to another country that fails to meet its target.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries will have to come out with a new market mechanism, but there are logjams over various issues. For example, India wants unused carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol era to be recognised and traded, while experts from the developed world have raised concerns that these credits could flood and ruin the new market even before it starts operating.
Climate finance is the other contentious issue expected to feature prominently in the Glasgow summit. According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Standing Committee on Finance, developing countries need almost $6 trillion up to 2030 to implement their national commitments. The highly anticipated climate finance delivery plan released last week said developed countries will likely be able to mobilise the promised $100 billion a year only in 2023, a delay of three years from the 2020 deadline originally promised.
In 2009, at the Copenhagen summit, wealthy nations had promised to jointly mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. If even this sum is not mobilised in time, how will climate finance be scaled up over time, ask experts.
“We ask for financial transfers that are transparent and verified,” the CSE said in its agenda for India. “Augmented funds are crucial, but there must be clear measurement and assessment of how real the funds are and what are they meant for,” it said.
“A successful outcome at COP26 will be a balanced package of measures to cut emissions rapidly in this decade and urgently scale up finance to adapt to climate impacts. Developed countries need to reassure developing countries that they will make up the shortfall in climate finance and set an ambitious new goal. Finalising the rules for carbon trading will help create a common currency that enables Indian industry to link its efforts to international markets and reduce the cost of emission reduction,” said Ulka Kelkar, economist and director, climate at World Resources Institute