Baba’s Explainer – COP26 a year later

  • IASbaba
  • November 4, 2022
  • 0
Environment & Ecology
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  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 
  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 

Context: A year ago at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, countries, banks and business leaders announced a slew of climate plans and pledges. Here is an update on how some of the biggest promises have since progressed.

What were the achievements in COP26 Climate Summit?
  • Tacit consensus on 1.5o target: The notional target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees celcius above pre-industrial levels (Paris Agreement) remains but the international discourse is now firmly anchored in the more ambitious target of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees to match the scale of the climate emergency.
  • Focus on Phasing down Coal: The Pact is the first clear recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, though the focus was on giving up coal-based power altogether. The original draft had contained a pledge to “phase out” coal. India introduced an amendment at the last moment to replace it with “phase down”.
    • The amendment from phase out to “phase down” came as a result of consultations among India, China, the UK and the US.
  • Recognition of the importance of Adaptation: World recognised that mere mitigation is not enough and that adaptation needs to be mainstreamed into developmental strategies. There is now a commitment to double the current finance available for this to developing countries.
  • Renewed Commitment for Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement target of $100 billion per annum between 2005-2020 was never met with the shortfall being more than half. There is now a renewed commitment to delivering on this pledge in the 2020-2025 period and there is a promise of an enhanced flow thereafter.
  • Compensation for loss and damage for developing countries: This is now part of the multilateral discourse and the US has agreed that it should be examined in working groups. That is a step forward but is unlikely to translate into a meaningful flow of funds any time soon.
  • Methane Pledge: Agreement was signed among 100 countries to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
  • Reverse deforestation: Another group of 100 countries has agreed to begin to reverse deforestation by 2030. Since the group includes Brazil and Indonesia, which have large areas of forests that are being ravaged by legal and illegal logging, there is hope that there will be progress in expanding one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet.
  • Clarity on Article 6 of Paris agreement– There is greater clarity on how bilateral carbon trades can proceed and the creation of a centralised hub that replaces Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
    • Criteria have been set out for countries to use CERs from projects registered after January 1, 2013 to meet their first NDC or first adjusted NDC.
    • It also designates a 12-member Supervisory Body to oversee the emerging hub and to review the baselines of recognised credits
  • New commitments by India: PM announced India’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon by 2070 that compared favourably with China’s target date of 2060. His announcements of enhanced targets for renewable energy were also welcomed.
  • Pressure by Youth: There was incredible and passionate advocacy of urgent action by young people across the world. This is putting enormous pressure on governments and leaders and if sustained, may become irresistible
What were considered as disappoints at Glasgow Climate Conference?
  • Inept Diplomacy by India: As the largest producer and consumer of coal and coal-based thermal power, China prefers a gradual reduction rather than total elimination. The word “phase down” also figures in the US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change, announced on November 10. India introducing the amendment played negatively with both the advanced as well as a large constituency of developing countries.  It should made China to do so.
  • Inadequate Adaptation Finance: Climate finance for adaptation is currently only $15 billion, doubling will mean $ 30 billion. This remains grossly inadequate. According to UNEP, adaptation costs for developing countries are currently estimated at $70 billion annually and will rise to an estimated $130-300 billion annually by 2030.
  • India declining to join new initiatives: India is not a part of the methane pledge group. India also did not join the reverse deforestation group due to concerns over a clause on possible trade measures related to forest products.
  • Bigger methane emergency in Permafrost Problem: Cutting methane emissions, which is generated mainly by livestock, is certainly useful but there is a much bigger methane emergency as the earth’s permafrost areas in Siberia, Greenland and the Arctic littoral begin to melt that would release huge volumes of carbon and methane.
  • US-China Declaration & India: The November 10 Joint declaration between US & China on Climate Change implies a shift in China’s hardline position. It appears both countries are moving towards a less confrontational, more cooperative relationship overall. This will have geopolitical implications, including for India, which may find its room for manoeuvre shrinking.
  • Lack of Concrete actions: There is more ambition in the intent to tackle climate change but little to show in terms of concrete actions. These have been deferred to future deliberations. Enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are expected to be announced at a meeting next year. There are no compliance procedures, only “name and shame” to encourage delivery on targets.
What has been the progress of commitments made in COP26?
  • National emissions plans: Nearly 200 countries agreed at last year’s COP26 summit to improve their emissions-cutting pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, in time for COP27, but only two dozen countries have so far done so. The world remains on a path to overshoot 2 degrees of warming beyond the pre-industrial average.
    • Those to upgrade since COP26 include Indonesia and South Korea as well as Australia, which pledged a 43% emissions cut by 2030 from 2005 levels.
    • The 27-country EU, the world’s third-biggest polluter, plans to upgrade its target in 2023. China has resisted pressure to improve its pledge to peak emissions before 2030 – a goal that doesn’t address the deep emissions cuts needed to avert disastrous global warming
  • Deforestation: More than 100 countries pledged last year to end deforestation by 2030. Supporters included Brazil, Indonesia and Congo, which together contain more than 80% of the world’s remaining tropical forests. To achieve that goal, however, the area deforested would need to shrink by 10% each year from the 2020 cover. Instead, deforestation fell last year by just 6.3%.
    • Amazon deforestation last year hit its highest level since 2006, and preliminary government data suggests it rose a further 23% in the first nine months of 2022.
  • Methane pledge: To date, 119 countries and blocs including the United States and the European Union have joined the COP26 pledge to slash methane emissions 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. But only 15 of them have come up with concrete plans to do so
    • World Meteorological Organization warned of the biggest year-on-year jump in methane concentrations in 2021 since record-keeping began nearly 40 years ago.
  • Quitting fossil fuels: Around 20 countries including Germany, the United States, Canada, Britain and France pledged last November to stop public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022, except in “limited” circumstances that comply with climate goals.
    • COP27 is expected to see a handful of new countries make the pledge. Signatories are also under pressure to translate the non-binding commitment into concrete policy, which some including France have done
  • $100 billion by 2023: Rich countries’ failure to deliver promised finance to poorer nations has eroded trust at recent climate talks and made collective progress harder. At the heart of the issue is a 2009 pledge from developed countries to transfer $100 billion per year by 2020 to vulnerable states.
    • Rich countries fell $16.7 billion short of the target in 2020 and have signalled that it won’t be met until 2023.

Main Practice Question: Countries had enhanced their climate commitments during the COP26 Glasgow summit. Critically analyse the progress made on the announcements.

Note: Write answer his question in the comment section.

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