Economy

Reasons why COP26 meet is a failure

V Nivedita | Updated on November 15, 2021

Leaders agree that time is running out but do little to change status quo

The Glasgow Climate Pact mentions coal as the fuel most responsible for warming the planet. This is the first time that a fuel has been called out in a UN climate pact.

According to the deal, greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030 for global warming to be maintained at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. However, it notes that under existing pledges, emissions will be nearly 14 per cent higher than in 2010 levels by 2030.

Western media pointed out that India and China watered down the deal by insisting that the use of coal be "phased down" and not "phased out". Union Environment Bhupender Yadav said that developing countries could not promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they "have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication". There was not enough focus on other sources of greenhouse gases, like methane emissions from natural gas and agricultural pollution. Though the deal has many good aspects, two problems persist.

Finances in a mess

One important aspect of the meet was to put in place the means to transition to a low carbon world, as envisaged in the 2015 Paris Accord. This would mean moving away from carbon-intensive energy sources to low-carbon sources, for which new infrastructure will have to be created. This needs financing, but the big question is who will pay for it?

In the 2015 Accord, developed countries promised to finance projects worth $100 billion per year by 2020, which has not been met yet. OECD data suggests that the target would be met only in 2023. Developing nations expressed their disappointment, insisting that developed nations must stick to their prior promises.

Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said that climate finance is not a charity. In an interview to the Associated Press he said, “I believe the biggest responsibility... lies with the developed countries.” He also pointed out that India is among the few countries that are on track to meet its climate targets before 2030. India’s Chandni Raina said that developed countries must accept historical responsibility and provide the financial resources to developing countries.

The Glasgow deal urges developed nations to increase funding, technology transfer and help increase capacity in developing nations, but it does not address this major problem in a meaningful way. Given this scenario, India’s call asking developed nations to increase funding to $1 trillion seems like an impossible dream.

Lofty goals, no checks

Many countries have set ambitious goals to cut emissions and become ‘net zero’ – that is to achieve carbon neutrality. The United States promised net zero by 2050, China and Saudi Arabia targeted 2060, while India has set its target as 2070.

The goals are great, but a cause of concern is that there is no roadmap to achieve the targets. In the US, for example, addressing climate change is a partisan matter, as the Republicans do not support green initiatives. In the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, only a portion focuses on building climate resilient infrastructure. Australia has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but it still plans to be a major coal and gas exporter. Japan has come under criticism for its inaction.

The 2015 Paris Agreement allowed nations to set their own targets to reduce emissions. However, they are not under any legal obligation to do so. The 1992 Kyoto Protocol set binding targets to developed countries. The US never ratified it, while others, like Canada, left the deal before the penalty regime kicked in. So, what is the way out? The Glasgow deal does not provide an answer.

As the start of the summit, US President Joe Biden said, “Right now, we’re still falling short. There’s no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves.” Despite the seriousness of the matter, the policymakers have failed to take action.

Published on November 15, 2021

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