Will COP 26 at Glasgow achieve its objective?

PP Sangal | Updated on October 27, 2021

Time is running out   -  /iStockphoto

The onus is on the G-20 to cough up funds for renewables transition. India should stick to the climate justice demand

The UN Climate Change Conference of Parties — COP26 — at Glasgow (Scotland) begins on October 31. The 12-day event aims at limiting average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees centigrade and, preferably, to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels of 1850-60.

Why it is a must to focus urgently on this issue? As is well known, Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest sixth assessment draft report, released in August this year, brought out how global warming had accelerated species extinction, spread of killer diseases, fatal heat-waves, forest fires, floods, droughts, cyclones, eco-system collapse, rising sea level, melting of glaciers and migration, besides impacting agricultural production. Innumerable such disastrous events around the world over the last two or three decades can be cited in support of this phenomenon.

Besides IPCC report, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) earlier said that we are getting closer measurably and inexorably to dangerous threshold limit of average global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius and there is 40 per cent chance that the limit would be crossed in about 5-10 years.

The moot question is how COP 26 can move forward to achieve the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The real solution lies in transition to clean renewable energy (RE) from coal/fossil fuels. To achieve this, the developing and other poorer nations would require sufficient investment, finance and new technology. According to IPCC, $600 billion per year is required for RE sector.

Further, the Chair of UN convened the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, which emphasised that clean energy investments in emerging and developing economies need to be increased to $1 trillion annually by 2030 from $150 in 2020. US Special Envoy on Climate John Kerry held a special discussion in August this year with India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and the two leaders launched the Climate Action and Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD). CAFMD is meant for facilitating finance and technology to achieve the objective. Six largest US banks have committed that they would invest a minimum of $4.16 trillion in this effort over the next few years to make the transition to clean energy happen.

Funding clean energy

Would the above requirements of huge finance and latest technology for RE sector be fulfilled? Here are some challenges. For example, under CAFMD, it is not known how large US banks would roll out $4.16 trillion in terms of quantum and timelines in the next 10 years. In fact, the $100 billion per year which the developed world promised at Copenhagen in 2009 (COP15) is still not being put on the table.

Large developing countries including India may be excluded from access to concessional finance and may have to depend on private sources. Clear guidelines are required by fast developing countries as to what activities would be termed as green.

Further, according to the July 2021 report by Bloomberg NEF and Bloomberg Philanthropier, G-20 countries are not walking the talk in addressing climate change as they have provided $2.3 trillion support for coal, oil and fossil fuels power between 2015 and 2019; this amount would have funded 4232 GW of renewable solar power. While India reduced support to the fossil fuel industry by 4 per cent between 2015 and 2019, G-20 countries together cut fossil fuel funding by 10 per cent only.

G-20 countries need to commit at Glasgow to bring down annual per capita emissions to 6.45 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent which is a global average. Here, it is necessary to point out that India’s annual per capita emission is only 2.47 tonnes and compared to this US’, China’s and EU’s emissions are about seven times, 3.4 times and three times respectively. India is pushing ahead with installation of clean energy of 450 GW by 2030 and it is already on course to achieve 175 GW by 2022. India is also taking seriously the reduction in emission intensity of GDP and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes.

To conclude, availability of finance and efficient technology at concessional rates would be critical for India, other developing and small island states for transition to clean renewable energy from coal/fossil fuels. For keeping the global warming within 1.5 degrees centigrade, the world should achieve about 45 per cent reduction in carbon emission by the end of 2030.

It is unfair to have uniform time-line for all countries on net- zero emissions. Rich nations, who are the largest polluters historically, should first transition to clean energy by the end of this decade — based on the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility — and give some space to poor nations to mitigate their poverty.

India should hold its ground on finance and climate justice.

The writer is a former ISS and a UN consultant

Published on October 27, 2021

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