Global climate change and reality of COP commitment

Raihan Ahmed Topader :

During the negotiations on funding for loss and damage in COP-27 in Egypt last November, representatives of developed countries had a lot of reservations about such a proposal.

While their questions were quite legitimate, they would only get answers after we received a political commitment from their leaders to establish the funding mechanism in the first place.

Fortunately, the leaders of all the countries agreed to establish the funding mechanism at COP-27 and also to set up a Transitional Committee to address the questions that were being asked.

The negotiations at COP-28 in Dubai in November this year will be when we will once again agree on how to address those questions and get the funding up and running.

The president of Cop-28, Sultan Al Jaber, has claimed there is no science indicating that a phase-out of fossil fuels is needed to restrict global heating to 1.5C, the Centre for Climate Reporting can reveal.

Al Jaber also said a phase-out of fossil fuels would not allow sustainable development unless you want to take the world back into caves.

The comments were incredibly concerning and verging on climate denial, scientists said, and they were at odds with the position of the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.

Al Jaber made the comments in ill-tempered responses to questions from Mary Robinson, the chair of the Elders group and a former UN special envoy for climate change, during a live online event on 21 November.

As well as running Cop-28 in Dubai, Al Jaber is also the chief executive of the United Arab Emirates state oil company, Adnoc, which many observers see as a serious conflict of interest.

More than hundred African, European, Pacific and Caribbean countries back a phase-out of unabated fossil fuels. The US, the world’s biggest oil and gas producer, also backs a phase-out.

Others, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and China, reject the call. Both options are on the table at Cop-28, as well as proposals to only mention coal, or to not say anything at all about fossil fuels.

Cop-26 in Glasgow in 2021 agreed for the first time to phase down coal use, but this had been watered down from phase out at the last minute, bringing the Cop-26 president, Alok Sharma, to tears.

Long before it kicked off, COP-28 had been at the centre of a heated debate, with critics arguing that the summit president Sultan Al Jaber’s other role as chief of the UAE’s national oil company was a clear conflict of interest, while his proponents argued his oil industry background would enable him to better bring the fossil fuel industry in line with climate commitments.
Unsurprisingly, this debate is still ongoing with regards to the climate conference’s outcomes.

The focus has been on a landmark deal that, for the first time, calls on all nations to transition away from fossil fuels.

Hailed for finally addressing the source of the climate emergency, it reinforces the commitment to limit global heating to 1.5C above preindustrial levels, and commits to tripling global renewable energy capacity.

However, it has also been roundly criticised for failing to include any explicit reference to the phasing out of fossil fuels, and for leaving a number of loopholes that would allow many of the worst polluting countries to continue business as usual.

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Climate justice advocates and leaders of climate vulnerable nations have also expressed their disappointment at how ambiguous the deal is in terms of climate finance, despite the acknowledgement that trillions of dollars will be needed.

And although the much-needed loss and damage fund has finally been put into operation, the money pledged so far is only a drop in the ocean. There is a notable lack of recognition of historic responsibility for the climate breakdown as well.

While we appreciate that the latest COP-28 deal finally recognises the culpability of fossil fuels, we must point out that simply issuing such statements is no longer enough; they must be followed up with real, quantifiable measures. We don’t have the time anymore, and we, as the climate action community, are tired of saying this ad nauseam.

Compensation is still non-existent, and contributions are being ‘greenwashed’ through existing projects and commitments, thereby not actually creating any new funds and having no net effect. This will not do. Almost 30 years into the COP, we’ve found fresh dilemmas, but not enough action.

Experts say anthropogenic factors, including rising greenhouse gas emissions, are primarily influencing the overall climate system, leading to alterations in temperature and precipitation patterns.

But local factors can also play a significant part, with one expert highlighting the role of land transformations, air pollution, and geographic features.

Particularly, land-use changes at the local level can have a significant impact on land-atmosphere interactions, resulting in unusual weather patterns.

This shows how important it is that Bangladesh, while calling for global efforts to cut down emissions and fund adaptation measures in vulnerable countries, also looks inwards to address factors contributing to the climate change.

This is a crisis that we cannot tackle alone, but nor can we absolve ourselves of all responsibility for it, however little our contributions may be in the big scheme of things.

This is precisely why policy and action have to go beyond governments, which likely will not, and sometimes cannot, act alone without support from private organisations, civil societies, and even UN bodies. Without involving these non-state actors, we are using only a fraction of the resources available to us.

Interventions for every demographic minorities, women, children, the handicapped, and the socioeconomically marginalised do not exist in a vacuum.

They are all interconnected, and the solutions, therefore, have to be integrated, robust, and holistic. Climate change has to weave through and be a part of every other solution and not be a peripheral concern.

All the provisions need to be adapted to account and adjust for the environment, in order to not be a wasted effort.

Given how human rights are silently impacted due to climate change consequences in many parts of the world, we need to revisit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other global commitments to ensure the required modification for a just world.

Moreover, the climate adaptation and mitigation solutions that do exist are often neglected in the search for a bigger and better solution.

We cannot wait for big solutions when locally-led interventions can do more with less-more effectively and faster. The crisis plaguing our climate, unlike a nation’s political, social, economic, or logistical crisis, is a universal one. None of us are alone in this, and have to act together. No blame, no claim. Let’s take responsibility.

(The writer is a professor and researcher. )

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