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More empty promises, no time for action PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 December 2019 05:43
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The tagline for CoP 25—Time for Action—was lost on the big polluters. The US, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Canada, among others, stymied any meaningful discussion—let alone negotiation—on carbon markets, which was at the top of the agenda for the meeting. Australia, the US, and Canada tried to force through rules for carbon markets that would have set the planet on the course for even larger emissions, effectively junking the target of containing global heating to1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which pertains to carbon markets, was a key point for many developing nations, including India, because it holds a large chunk of the unsold carbon credits that were envisioned under the Clean Development Mechanism adopted under the Kyoto Agreement. The future of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is key to clean development in developing nations, also seems unclear now. Unsure of long-term climate financing from developed countries, some developing countries are starting to believe that the rich nations are backing out of the Paris Agreement, thereby fundamentally endangering the climate compact. Ironically, the GCF vision was quite low in ambition to start with—$100 billion by 2020—and the total financing committed so far is $5.6 billion.

What the nations agreed to was to step up commitment to climate action by the next CoP summit, in Glasgow next year—countries will be required to announce new climate pledges. This looks as unlikely as some of the small island nations surviving the current rate of heating and consequent rise in sea levels. If G20 participation at the Climate Action Summit in September this year hadn’t made this clear—host and, historically, one of the worst absolute and the worst per capita polluters, the US, refused to even speak at the summit—the fact that the climate-sceptic president of Brazil, Jair Bolsanaro, regime called the CoP25 negotiations a “commercial game” and Australia has been batting for, including carryover credits from the Kyoto Deal, under which it was allowed to increase emissions for some time, to let it meet its target under the Paris deal. The EU, which has just promulgated the ambitious EU Green Deal, under which the Union aims to turn carbon neutral by 2050, offers some hope—it talks about decarbonising its energy sector, a big boost for global emission control since 75% of the EU’s emissions is accounted for by production and use of energy, rolling out cleaner public and private transportation, making households more energy efficient, and supporting industry to adopt green production and consumption. But, the US, which had talked about cutting emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025 under the Paris deal, is expected to walk out of the deal soon if it stays under a Trump government. Brazil, too, has shown little inclination to act—unprecedented deforestation of its rainforests, an important carbon sink, for commercial exploitation has happened under the Bolsanaro regime.

While scientific consensus sets a threshold of 2oC above pre-industrial levels, beyond which global heating will have cataclysmic impact—the world is already hotter by 1.1oC, with devastating consequences, including increased incidence of massive floods, wildfires, and cold spells—the World Meteorological Organization says the current heating rate puts the world on the path to 3-5oC rise by 2100. The 20 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 22 years, with the last four years being the hottest four. The latest assessment of global emissions by the UN shows that atmosphere will hold enough greenhouse gases for the planet to heat up by 1.5oC in just ten years. While the UN secretary general rued the loss of an “important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance”, rich and fast-developing nations were happy to kick the can down the road to next year. The UN had warned that time to act was running out fast, CoP 25 punctured its own tagline.

 
 
 
 
 

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