Updated: Oct 9
The world dynamics are rapidly changing; from advancements in health, education and governance to the advent of AI and semiconductors; today’s world is a predictably unpredictable space. And in these multitudes of spheres, climate change is one all-encompassing phenomena; that is affecting every single species.
Image Graphics by Team Geostrata
Climate Change refers to shifts in temperature and weather patterns in the long run. Shifts such as these can be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. Since the latter half of the 19th century, human deeds have been the sole driver of climate change, owing primarily to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
More frequent and intense floods, heat waves, storms and water level rise are among the major catastrophes that are by-products of climate change. Though humans can adapt to changes in their environment, the extreme implications; which could be termed as ‘sudden and swift’ in the geological timescale, make the changes irremediable.
Lives are lost, embankments broken, families displaced and habitats permanently changed. The world has already moved from mitigating to adapting. While the international agreements and yearly discussions deliver little to avert the impending disaster, it’s a human propensity to analyse the prospectus each year. This year’s COP28 is being held in Dubai, UAE. Like every other conference of parties in the past, it has high expectations attached and a great delivery potential.
Here, we analyse the few takeaways and talking points that would be tabled at COP28.
LOSS AND DAMAGE-
The issue of loss and damage and its finance has been a crucial talking point on the list of agendas for the past conferences. However, COP27 by far has been the most successful one to take into account the issue of loss and damage, coherently.
The point of focus should be the sum of funding required, and the process and method of initiation of imbursement. The total funding required to meet the loss and damage requirements is estimated at a total of $290B - $580B in developing countries by 2030.
Moreover, the United Nations climate summit, which was held in Copenhagen in 2009, pledged that the developed countries would channel $100B into the developing nations to help them with adaptation and climate change mitigation by the year 2020 but this figure stood at $83B as of 2020 and is expected to breach the threshold by 2023.
Therefore, announcing and establishing the fund does not necessarily help mitigate, proper mechanisms of wealth accumulation and distribution are extremely necessary. Loss and Damage fund will be one of the primary agendas at COP 28.
WHERE DO GLOBAL CLIMATE CONVENTIONS STAND ON THIS CONTENTION?
PARIS AGREEMENT - signed in 2015, article 8 focuses on loss and damage; stating that signatory countries recognise “the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change”.
On one hand, inclusion of strong language addressing the loss and damage in the Paris Agreement provides a formal platform, something pushed for a long time by the developing world.
On the other hand, paragraph 52 of the decision adopted alongside the Paris Agreement states: “Article 8 of the agreement does not provide or involve a basis for any liability or compensation,” which means that the Agreement does not give a mandatory legal obligation binding the members into fulfilling their commitments regarding loss and damage currently.
Moreover, article 13 of the Agreement has established a robust framework for support and action, with flexibility which looks into Parties' different capacities and builds upon a collective experience.
The framework for transparency of support deals with providing clarity on support received and provided by parties in the context of climate actions, and, the maximum length possible, for furnishing an overview of aggregate fiscal support handed, to inform the global stocktake under Article 14.
The KYOTO PROTOCOL - The Clean Development Mechanism under Article 12, allows a nation with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol for the implementation of emission-reduction projects in developing countries.
Such projects can earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits which can then be sold, each equivalent to 1Tn of carbon dioxide that can be attributed towards Kyoto Protocol targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5% against 1990 levels.
Furthermore, the Adaptation Fund established under UNFCCC and the Protocol is financed by the proceeds from the Clean Development Mechanism projects. Major activities supported by the Fund include, water resources and land management, fragile ecosystems, early warning systems, disease control and disaster management.
The Fund has an accreditation period of 5 years and is eligible for a re-accreditation which is approved by an Accreditation Panel that reviews, analyses and assesses the application based on fiduciary standards
COP 27 - The COP 27 closed with a breakthrough agreement to provide loss and damage funding also known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, for vulnerable countries bearing the brunt of floods, drought and other climate disasters and agreed for establishment of a fund and the necessary funding agreements.
Nevertheless, the details of the agreement and its execution will need to be sealed out during the COP28 later in 2023. Moreover, a Transitional Committee is to make recommendations on the operationalisation of both the new funding structure and the fund for consideration and adoption at COP28.
Investment of huge fiscal resources is needed to finance climate action as into both, reduce emissions and promote adaptation towards changing climate order and to build a robust and resilient system disaster management should there need be.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defines climate finance as the local, national level or transnational level financing—attracted from public, private and alternative sources of finance—which seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions thereby addressing climate change.
However, the definition of climate finance as included in the official documents and agreements is incomplete. Without the mention of who will finance, how the finances should be processed and where the money should be utilised, have been left vague. This resulted in each country assuming its own definition of climate finance to further its national interests.
Also, most of this funding is in the form of loans and bonds, rather than grants; which often goes to the big corporations who supposedly work in the renewables sector, rather than ground level implementation through the public sector. Though corruption could be a black spot, there is a necessity to recognise and adopt the bottom-top approach in adapting to climate change, and the top-bottom approach in mitigating it.
These issues need immediate addressal and COP 28 should incorporate this important aspect in their discussions.
Energy generation is the key element adding to climate change we face today, but it is also the key in mitigating the same. A major part of GHGs today are a result of heat trapped in the earth’s atmosphere when fossil fuels are burnt to produce energy. Renewable energy resources are abundantly present around us which produce little to no GHG emissions.
For efficient facilitation of green transition, the UNFCCC has already established a financial mechanism providing resources to member Parties named Global Environment Facility in 1994 which is complemented by the Green Climate Fund established during COP16 back in 2010 and is accountable to COP and decides on policies, imbursement priorities, and eligibility criteria.
With nations keen to achieve a green transition of their fossil-fuels-based economies, it is imperative that there be better coordination and partnership between countries with actionable mandates. Moving forward in the same direction, the honourable Indian PM Narendra Modi, urged his BRICS counterparts to strive for a sustainable solar energy utilisation by bringing together a coalition through the International Solar Alliance.
The ISA envisages deepening cooperation between solar resources rich nations also called ‘suryaputra’ or ‘sons of the Sun’ and the greater global community via bilateral and multilateral engagements. Its short-term goals include the development of solar hybrid-based cold chain solutions, to bring value to farmers and producers, and a push for sustainable and cooling tech based on solar energy to mitigate global warming.
Now, as COP28 is taking place in the UAE, we must take into account the Arab world’s contribution and ambitions toward renewables. With the collapse of oil prices during the pandemic the Arab world, being the largest producer and exporter of oil and gas, realised the need to substantially reform its economy and invest in R&D in alternative renewable energy forms, particularly, solar energy. By 2035, the middle east is expected to contribute 200 MW of energy generation via solar energy which is not bad for a region totally dependent on fossils.
COP28 will therefore, focus on the necessity and facilitation of greater diversification of economies as well.
The last conference of parties, i.e. COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, delivered greatly, in establishing the breakthrough agreement on loss and damage as aforementioned. However, when we look at the urgency of the issues and the worsening extreme weather events; it is crucial to relook at the implementation. Fast-tracking the discussions as well as the just, speedy and result-oriented implementation is the only way forward.
The non-binding nature of agreements often leaves loopholes in the plan thereby limiting the scope of climate action which might have a far-reaching effect had it been a mandate. Greater inclusivity and cooperation between parties in settling and addressing each other's concerns in a sustainable manner is important.
As the past COPs have been successful in bringing all parties on the same page in the form of acknowledgements, adaptation fund establishment and implementation plans adopted by all, there still needs to be more done regarding the disbursement and initiation of funds. COP28, however, has the capability to deliver the aforementioned with a just and enhanced optimism.
BY JNANITA AND DIGVIJAY