By Asitha Jayawardena
Activists, including Greta Thunberg, going to the courts, teaching school children about climate and climate’s impact on health are among many developments of the climate crisis as the Conference of Parties (COP26) or UN Climate Change Conference 2021 is scheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, from 31st October to 12th November 2021. That is just two weeks.
The themes of the two-week presidency programme of COP26 is out now. However, in July 2021, over 100 developing nations have proposed a five-point plan to be considered in the COP26: mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance and implementation.
How the COP26 programme and the five-point plan of the developing countries are intertwined is ideal for discussion.
The COP26 programme and the five-point plan
On the first day, i.e., 31 October, the Procedural Opening of Negotiations will begin, bringing all the representatives of the countries to Glasgow.
The main items (some of them are in groups) of the presidency programme of COP26 are as follows:
• World Leaders Summit
• Adaptation, Loss and Damage
• Nature and Cities, Regions and the Built Environment
• Energy and Transport
The World Leaders Summit
The first two days of the COP26 summit (i.e., 1st and 2nd of November 2021) are for the world leaders. Although a theme has not been mentioned, the idea it gives is “mitigation”, which is one of the five-point plan proposed by the developing nations.
According to the Paris Agreement, the programme mentions the net-zero targets as well as maintaining the rise of the global temperatures to 1.5C but not 2C.
The Paris Agreement on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website mentions as its goal “is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.”
Currently, we are at a global temperature of 1.1 to 1.2C, compared to pre-industrial levels. If we go over 0.3C, we would have reached 1.5C and that is a massive increase when the effect of climate change is considered.
2C is even more colossal concerning climate change and the COP26 programme has not even considered it for inclusion. This is why the developing nations, particularly the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), have called for a limit to the rise of the global temperature to 1.5C because some would know that the rise of 2C would eventually wipe them out from the map due to the rising sea levels.
Taking 1.5C instead of 2C as the limit is a victory for the developing nations.
Adaptation, Loss and Damage
The theme “Adaptation, Loss and Damage” in the COP26 programme is another triumph for the developing nations for they argued for this over a long time. “Adaptation” and “Loss and Damage” are two of the five-point plan put forward by the developing nations in July 2021.
Today, extreme events, as well as slow-onset events due to climate change, cause massive impacts on nations. According to the UNFCCC website, floods, heatwaves, droughts, tropical cyclones and storm surges are extreme events while increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, salinization, land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity, glacial retreat and desertification are slow onset events.
In terms of climate change, “loss and damage” is when the impacts of climate change may exceed the adaptive capacity of the countries, communities and ecosystems. Such huge climate impacts have already happened, bringing ramifications for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
The climate crisis, mainly caused by humans, has battered, is battering and will batter the world today, particularly developing nations.
Nature and Cities, Regions and the Built Environment
Two themes, “Nature” and “Cities, Regions and the Built Environment”, could be viewed as nature and “non-nature”. First, we have “nature”. Then, when people want a place to stay and progress with life, they build cities and regions, converting nature into a built environment. This is termed as “non-nature”.
Adapting nature into “non-nature” (e.g., cities) could be done in two ways. One is without any respect for nature: the other, with respect for nature.
Conversion of nature into “non-nature” in a sustainable way requires the mimics of nature, such as biomimicry. According to the Biomimicry Institute, biomimicry “is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges — and find hope along the way.”
The five-point plan of the developing countries has nothing to do with these two themes of the presidency programme of COP26, however.
Energy and Transport
“Energy” and “Transport” of the COP26 programme are two themes that go closely together.
In the past, coal, oil and natural gas, called fossil fuels, were our energy sources for home, industry and transport. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy are called non-renewable energy sources. Recently, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass took the burden of energy generation.
Coal, oil and natural gas are materials that are many millions of years old. The amount that is left after several hundred years of extraction of fossil fuels is not much. Moreover, when burning, fossil fuel adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and it is the primary cause of climate change. When climate emergency is in a critical position and, according to the Paris Agreement, the maximum global temperature rise is 1.5C, coal and oil should be “thrown away”, at least at the COP26 summit in November 2021. But throwing away fossil fuels is not possible because of the money it involves.
And throwing away is not a bad idea when renewable energy sources are tipped to fill in that space. Renewable sources like wind and solar have in abundance on earth and have no impact on climate change. These renewables are now contributing to energy generation, divesting fossil fuels – as it is called.
Turning to transport, petrol and diesel are the fossil fuels that most vehicles use. What we want to do is to convert these cars into hybrid or electric. The UK has vowed that it will ban new cars running on petrol and diesel by 2030.
Again, the five-point plan of developing nations is silent on these two terms of the COP26 programme.
“Finance” of the COP26 programme is what moves everything towards success (if there is one) because there is money. The five-point plan of the developing nations has it under the same name, finance.
The developed world and the developing world have an issue in finance.
The UK, US and other developed nations are the nations that pumped out carbon dioxide to the atmosphere without any limit by coal and oil for over two hundred years. More recently, the developing countries, like India, release carbon dioxide but not much in terms of per capita. Even now, the carbon emissions of the US and India is 15.5 and 1.9 tons per capita, respectively.
During the past two hundred years, development was the motivating factor and later it changed to sustainable development since the 1980s. Those that were rich found development by no sustainable means and those that are still developing have an additional parameter to satisfy with, termed sustainable development. It is argued that the developed countries are therefore committed to financing the developing nations.
The developed nations promised an amount of $100bn a year from 2020 to climate support as grants. However, at the G7 summit in Cornwall in June 2021, the amount was not forthcoming. Extra bilateral funding was promised but it fell short clearly.
Under finance in the five-point plan, therefore, the developing nations requested to deliver the commitment to supply at least $100bn per year by 2020, committing to providing grants instead of loans. Moreover, the developing countries asked the developed counterpart to commit to scaling up annual financing with at least US$100bn a year from 2021 to 2025.
Still, the developing nations do not know that the developed countries would consider the important point to depth in the five-point plan, i.e., finance, in the COP26 summit in November.
Issues that are included in COP26
Three themes, namely “Science and Innovation”, “Gender” and “Youth and Public Empowerment”, are issues that are included in the COP26 programme. The five-point plan from developing countries would not touch on them, however.
Science and Innovation is a key topic area that scientists have taken over. Something not scientific is not considered in terms of climate change.
Gender is an issue that is covered in climate change as well as other areas such as politics. Women, girls and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) have the same rights as well as men and boys. For example, the climate activist Greta Thunberg is a female teen.
Greta Thunberg brings us to the third issue, Youth and Public Empowerment. The public has a strong interest in climate change because they continue to live on this earth while politicians come and go in five, ten or fifteen years. Youth have an even stronger interest in the climate because they will be at their prime, say, in 2050.
Implementation is the key to save humanity
“Closure of negotiations” is on the final day of the COP26 programme. To save humanity, the implementation of all these measures is the key and it is included in the five-point plan for developing countries. That’s why, for all countries, developing nations agree on a common 5-year time frame for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Does it advise the presidency programme of COP26 to do things better so that it can save humanity and planet earth from climate change? Only time will tell in less than two weeks.
The Presidency Programme for COP26
COP26: Delivering the Paris Agreement, a five-point plan for solidarity, fairness and prosperity https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LfeLF7hOkecQDdD9FKYu_Y00LVzeiTX6/view
The Paris Agreement https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
Approaches to address Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change impacts in developing countries https://unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/workstreams/approaches-to-address-loss-and-damage-associated-with-climate-change-impacts-in-developing-countries