COP 26: A pivotal summit to tackle climate change - By: . . | Dailytrust

COP 26: A pivotal summit to tackle climate change

climate change
climate change

The UK city of Glasgow will host leaders from about 200 countries including business, philanthropic, climate campaigners and civil society to the United Nation’s global conference on Climate change from October 31st to November 12th, 2021. According to the organizers, as of September 20, 2021, 100 government leaders have confirmed their attendance.

Since 1990 when the first report of the UN’s agency, Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released, the agency has been warning the world about the threat of global warming. The 6th Assessment Report (AR6) released in August 2021 warns of dire increase in extreme weather events (heat waves, draught, floods and others) unless “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” were put in place. It further stated that “the world has already warmed by 1.1oC above pre-industrial levels, and is now hurtling fast toward 1.5 degrees”. COP26 host country UK, aims to spur world leaders towards real progress on the following key goals; i.e. Mitigation, Adaptation, Finance and Collaboration. COP26 president, UK MP, Alok Sharma hopes a key COP26 goal is “keeping 1.5oC alive”.

COP26 would be the largest climate conference since Paris 2015 and a follow up to the landmark agreement in which over 196 nations pledged to take actions to limit global temperature rises to below 2oC above pre-industrial levels (i.e. 1850 –1900) and limit global heating to 1.5oC in order to stave off the worst consequences of the climate crisis.  Article 2, paragraph 4 of the 2015 Paris agreement requires each party to prepare, communicate and maintain a non-binding targets, commitments and plan of action called the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) to curb greenhouse gas emissions as a “ratchet mechanism” according to Fiona Harvey writing in the Guardian, UK. The NDCs are individual member nation’s plan of action and targets to tackle climate change equitably detailing commitments towards achieving it. By the deadline of July 30th 2021 just 113 NDCs were submitted out of 197 for their climate pledges inclusion in the UNFCCC summary report ahead of COP26 summit.

As of August 27, 2021 China, Japan, Nigeria, South Korea and South Africa submitted stronger NDC targets. For example, further to mitigation plans to slash Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous oxide (N2O), Nigeria updated her NDC to include mitigation of greenhouse gas Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) not included in the previous NDC submitted in addition to unconditional contribution of slashing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2030. The UK pledged a 68 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and 78 per cent by 2035 in her updated NDC to the UNFCCC according to Chatham House. 

Saudi crown prince pledged his country’s net-zero emissions target by 2060 in addition to generating 50 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s energy needs from renewables by 2030 and planting billions of trees. The European Union (EU) aims for emissions reduction of at least 55 per cent relative to 1995 levels while the United States is targeting emissions reduction of 50-52 per cent  compared to 2005 levels.

Climate Change Mitigation

For a good chance for the world to remain in the 1.5oC threshold, Scientists estimated a 45 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared to 2010 levels and subsequent net zero emissions by 2050.  Rapid and sustained reduction of fossil-fuel emissions is crucially significant to slashing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs (Greenhouse Gases) from the atmosphere. Similarly, divesting investments from coal powered energy sources and transitioning to renewables such as Solar, Wind, Biomass, clean hydrogen and geothermal energy sources will cut atmospheric CO2. India, China and Japan are world’s topmost coal importing nations while Australia is world’s second largest exporter of coal behind Indonesia. COP26 will aim to persuade these nations and others to rethink their dependence on coal and transition to alternative environment friendly sources. Tree planting, reforestation of degraded lands, marine habitat conservation, wetlands and mangroves expansion and restoration, transitions to Electric Vehicle (EVs) transport and renewable energy systems, DACS (Direct Air Carbon Storage), CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) technologies such as the recently inaugurated facility (The Orca plant) in Iceland will contribute to achieving net-zero emissions. The United States account for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions and the Biden administration has pledged to cut that by 50% by 2030.

Climate Finance

At COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, developed nations pledged a yearly S100 billion fund to help developing and poorer nations in the Global South combat climate change. Under the UNFCCC, The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established to manage the funds and further complement developing nation’s financial efforts to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This summit aims to secure commitments to greener financial investments towards global transition from fossil-fuels to cleaner and sustainable energy sources.  

The host nation, UK announced a £620 million towards shift to electric vehicles in addition to percentage cap to all vehicles manufacturers in the UK towards EVs (Electric Vehicles). Through Africa Development Bank (ADB), the Green Climate Fund has pledged $150 million towards Desert to Power G5 Solar energy financing facility in the Sahel region. The Biden administration has pledged to double its financial commitments to the GCF a major boost to climate change financing. According to Fridays For Future Uganda, Africa is responsible for just about 3.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions but the continent is vulnerable to the brunt of climate change induced catastrophe such as increased temperature, droughts, floods and habitat displacements.

Climate Adaptation

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) highlighted the need for humans to adjust their lives in order to better cope with climate change impacts. Greenhouse gas emissions from global food production accounted for 26 per cent of total emissions. For example, Methane, a greenhouse gas from agricultural and livestock production can be slashed if humans rethink food and livestock farming by switching to plant-based diets thus relieving the already strained land and water resources. The reclaimed lands can be re-purposed for wild habitats, green parks, lesser pollution and reforestation for natural carbon sinks, biodiversity and ecosystem restorations. Draught resistance crops can help increase yields in climate-induced drought prone regions safeguarding livelihoods for indigenous people. Similarly, coastal settlements can better adapt to the threat of increased sea level rise from melting ice sheets and torrential rains through safer, resilient and sustainable property developments and early warning systems.

Collaboration:

At COP24 in 2018 world leaders agreed to come up with set of rules designed to slash emissions and halt global warming which culminated into the Paris Rulebook as it came to be known. The Paris Rulebook arises from Article 6 of the Paris agreement which detailed issues like global carbon markets and framework for governments and transparency among all parties towards carbon offsets and goal of limiting temperatures to 1.5oC. The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is vital in carbon trading and the country’s chief negotiator at COP26, Leonardo Cleaver de Athayde hinted that “we are more flexible to make the agreement viable” according to Bloomberg. 

The Congo is world’s second largest rainforest an important carbon sink and home to millions of plants and animals currently faced with potential resumption of industrial logging activities. Hopefully, upcoming negotiations at COP26 will persuade DRC leaders through financial incentives such as carbon trading and GCF financing to shelve the plan thereby protecting the forest from further exploitation. COP26 summit will finalize the Paris Rulebook into an agreeable framework for governments, global agencies, businesses and civil society under supervision of the UN.

By Yunusa Isa who can be reached via yunusaisa@ieee.org

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