Editorial Simplified: Still on the Last Chance Saloon | GS – III

Relevance: GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)


Theme of the article

The Katowice climate meet must ensure that today’s children don’t inherit a planet heading to a catastrophe.


Why has this issue cropped up?

The 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-24) to the UNFCC in Katowice, Poland is meant to take forward steps to address the threat of climate change.


The threat to climate change

The world is in deep trouble. Average global temperatures have crossed a degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and such concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (410 ppm) has never been seen by humans before.


Purpose of COP 24

  • The purpose of the meeting is to set guidelines, or agree on a rulebook, to implement pledges that were made by various countries at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.
  • At Paris, the global community agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels.
  • The current conference at Katowice comes soon after a special publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 1.5 Degree Report, according to which what we need are far-reaching, speedy transformative changes in our societies in order to stay below 1.5°

NDCs

  • In the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), planned ahead of the Paris COP-21, each country described the actions it would take and the levels to which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be reduced (mitigation).
  • Many of them also described what they would do to improve their capacity to live in a warmer world (adaptation), and the extent to which these goals required support in the form of finance or technology transfer.

Provision of finance under the Paris Agreement

  • Article 9 of the Paris Agreement calls for financial support from developed countries. This was expected to result in at least $100 billion per year to address needs and priorities of developing countries for mitigation and adaptation.
  • Article 9.5 requires developed countries to communicate their levels of support, including pledges of additional finance. Even a rough estimate of financial needs for implementing all the NDCs puts it at $4.4 trillion.

The Hurdles

  • There has to be a general agreement on how to estimate adaptation. This is more complicated and varied and is still being developed.
  • There has been little progress on finance, technology transfer and capacity development.
  • The Climate Funds Update of 2018 notes that multilateral funds pledged until 2017 are less than $30 billion, of which around $20 billion has been deposited and about $4 billion disbursed.
  • There have also been charges of double counting and counting of development aid levelled against developed countries.
  • The inability to have any agreement between developing and rich countries ensures that the fights on finance and technology will intensify.
  • The ethical foundations of the climate change fights on the global stage are based largely on the occupation of atmospheric carbon space by rich countries, leaving little room for growth by the latecomers, which are poor nations.
  • The implementation of the activities for the PA formally begins in 2020 and concludes in 2030. We are currently in the Doha Amendment period, or the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which has not been ratified.
  • While the U.S. and its current policies are much to blame for the situation, other developed countries are not doing that much better.
  • Australia and France have had political turmoil due to their climate policies even while experiencing severe weather events. Protests on fuel charge hikes have rocked France. Europe is still heavily reliant on coal.

Way forward

  • What is required is credible, accurate and verifiable numbers on the climate flows expected from developed countries. Such reliable flow will encourage and persuade all countries that commitments made will be fulfilled.
  • Countries with average income exceeding $15,000 typically have the capacity and finance and technology to reduce their emissions dramatically. They must also alter their lifestyles considerably, which is required for the transformational change that the 1.5 Degree Report calls for.
  • As extreme events are on the rise, the separate stream referred to as “loss and damage” needs attention. This is a provision for support to poor countries experiencing economic and non-economic losses and destruction from climate change events.

Conclusion

Today’s children are inheriting from their parents and grandparents an earth that is out of control and heading to be 3-4º C warmer by the end of the century. Perpetual growth is not viable for any species. Business-as-usual policies with high consumption by the rich are driving the destruction of ecosystems and the mass extinction of species.