The COP27, or the 27th Conference of Parties (countries) who signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is described as an ‘implementation COP’, and will focus on implementing the decisions agreed upon in the earlier COPs.
What decision? Any examples?
Over the years, there have been many decisions and agreements. For example, at COP26 held in Glasgow, UK, last year, 145 countries came up with a ‘Glasgow Forest Declaration’, agreeing to slow down and halt deforestation; India stayed out. There was an agreement to “phase down” coal and another called Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance, under which some countries agreed to gradually move away from the oil and gas. And then there is this big agenda of creating a global market for trading carbon credits.
At the heart of most of these agreements is finance. Most agreements fall off the cliff due to insufficient provision of funds. So, there will be much talk around finance in COP27, as in the previous conferences.
Have unprecedented events such as Covid, the Russia-Ukraine war and extreme weather conditions dealt a setback to global warming and emission targets?
They certainly have. Many reports, including two recent ones by the United Nations Environment Programme, (on emissions and adaptation) have pointed out that the world is going way off-track in its journey towards climate targets. Increasing energy prices and the engulfing recession leave less money for the governments to pay for climate action. To live in a warming world, the planet should not get warmer by 2°C than the average temperatures of 1850-1900 (roughly), by the year 2100. But it is almost certain that the “2°C target” will be missed; it would be anywhere between 2.4°C to 2.6°C, perhaps even 3°C. And that is very dangerous.
What is ‘loss and damage’ from climate change and why is it important for India?
Climate action falls into one of three buckets: mitigation, adaptation and loss & damage. Mitigation refers to measures taken to prevent further global warmings —such as renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration and e-mobility. Adaptation refers to measures taken to protect ourselves against unavoidable climate effects—such as building storm-water drains, larger water storage and developing heat-resistant plant varieties. The ‘Loss & damage’ are measures put in place so that when a country is hit by a climate event (like a storm), it can quickly get back on its feet.
At COP27, it has just been agreed that ‘loss & damage’ could be taken up for discussion. Again, finance is a big stumbling block, because who will pay for a country’s post-climate event rehabilitation?
‘Loss & Damage’ is important to India, as for any developing country. But, the first claimants for any funding for loss & damage are likely to be the small island nations, which will be most affected by climate events.
What is the fracas over financing the climate control initiatives all about?
Essentially, it is about the reluctance of the developed countries to pay. They are the ones who cause global warming, but it is the poor countries that are disproportionately affected by it. While the rich countries recognize that it should pay up, they baulk at it.
For example, in 2010, it was agreed that the Green Climate Fund should disburse $100 billion a year from 2020, but rich countries’ contribution to the fund has been a pittance ($2 billion). Again, they promise only ‘mobilization’ and not grants. For instance, last year, South Africa was promised $8.5 billion (woefully inadequate) to wean itself away from coal, under a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP)--the money would be used to take care of people affected by moving away from coal. But only 4 per cent of this is ‘grant’; the rest are loans on which South Africa shall pay interest.
Really, even that ‘mobilization’ is not happening on the scale required.
What is India’s stance on climate change-related issues? How far has India achieved climate change targets?
India will meet its specific commitments, called Nationally Determined Contributions—such as creating renewable energy capacity (500GW by 2030), bringing down the emission intensity of GDP, and raising forest cover. India is criticized, perhaps with justification, for taking up only within-reach targets, not ambitious ones. Regardless, India is not an underperformer.
India is also a leading voice of the Global South. Last year, the wording of the agreement on coal changed from “phase-out” to “phase-down” of coal—which reflects our ground realities, but caused much chagrin around the world.