A critical moment for climate change talks

Nambi Appadurai | Updated on December 03, 2018

Crucial meet   -  iStockphoto

The UN climate change meet in Poland must take the Paris agenda forward and ramp up ambitions

The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is hosting the 24th Conference of Parties (CoP-24) meeting from December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The focus of CoP-24 is largely on giving life to the elements that have gone into the making of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP). The key tasks cut out for this meeting would include: drafting a well-balanced operation rulebook; bringing clarity on domestic processes for preparing an updated nationally determined contributions (NDC) as well as mid-century strategies by 2020; assessing progress on climate finance; and engaging private sector investors to stimulate climate actions using relevant market mechanisms.

The most recent political developments and the report on 1.5C Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will have a mixed impact on the CoP 24 negotiations. The 1.5C report has raised expectations for climate actions, despite the muted responses from the governments across the world. Recent political dynamics have to be weighed in to facilitate fruitful negotiations. These include the recently concluded US mid-term elections, which have given an impetus to pro-climate actions; backtracking on the commitments by Brazil’s new government; fragmented approaches in pushing for more ambitious targets by the so called “progressive countries” namely, EU member states, EU Commission and Canada; and the lingering wariness of the effect of Paris Agreement on their economies among oil exporting countries.

Weakening cooperation among the major economic powers with the on-going trade war between US and China, increasing emissions, uncertainties associated with Brexit and overall stagnation in emission reduction investments does not augur well to safeguard the basic tenets of the Paris Agreement, let alone enhancing ambitions.

While a just transition, nature-based solutions and e-mobility are key issues, it is common knowledge that climate finance is among the biggest sticking points in climate talks. This will gain attention in the negotiation process.

The success of CoP 24 depends on the international political will to act upon the findings of the 1.5C report. It would require reaching a clear consensus on the “rule book” that helps to deliver on the commitments to decarbonise economies. It also calls for building resilience and enhancing financial flows in the next five years.

The case of India

Just transition, nature-based solutions (NBS) and e-mobility have a resonance with the steps that India has taken to fulfil its climate obligations. Just transition refers to the importance of proactively managing socio-economic challenges arising out of the transitions from business-as-usual pathways to a decarbonised economy.

Over the years, India has demonstrated leadership to establish climate justice, galvanising like-minded countries and agencies and needs to work closely with the international community.

The opportunities for mainstreaming NBS into climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Indian context is sizeable. The actions here would help India achieve both its NDC (nationally determined contributions spelt out in the Paris pact) goals and SDG goals. India’s NDC proposal to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO 2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030 underscores the opportunities offered by NBS. It could help improve the use of open space, particularly in the urban context, and deliver a wide range of non-market, community-level resilience dividends. India should strengthen actions to fulfil its commitment.

On its commitment to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP, India is promoting e-mobility. The government is focusing on manufacturing, shared infrastructure, including better urban design, accelerated adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and other pathways.

However, the urgent need is to expedite and strengthen sub-national level actions, providing the capacities and resources to execute the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC).

The challenge ahead of is huge, given the political context, inadequacies in resources to meet the targets, and fragmented approaches. It is imperative that the world community should take some bold steps to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor and vulnerable people impacted by climate change.

The writer is with World Resources Institute

Published on December 02, 2018

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