Madrid’s Miasam is Matter-of-Fact, Stronger and robust climate action is the need of the hour

By Bibhuti Pati

Ultimately UN Conference of Parties (COP 25) at Madrid, Spain came to an end. This time, there is a near consensus that climate change is real. Everyone now believes that it is high time to act. The message from COP 25 is very clear -immediate stronger and robust climate actions, with an involvement of all the stakeholders – it’s a clarion call for at least to find ways even to do as little as possible, as cheaply as possible by each one of us. The new buzzword is to develop credible market mechanisms, which are needed to make countries carbon-neutral, or net-zero. But there was no consensus on key pending issues like new carbon markets, enhanced ambition by developed countries to meet Paris Agreement target of keeping global mean temperature rise under 2 degrees and talks on putting in place a system to compensate for the loss and damage suffered by vulnerable countries due to climate change; with respect to review of Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. It was largely viewed that COP 25 failed to recognize the urgency of climate crisis underlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The issue of carbon markets, pending from the Paris Rulebook drafted last year, remains incomplete because some Countries including Brazil, Australia and India, have demanded that Carbon Credits generated under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of UNFCCC, a Carbon Market Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, be carried forward and counted for emission reduction after 2020. In addition BASIC Countries Such as Brazil, South Africa, India and China issued a Joint statement that resolving the discussions on Article 6 (Pertaining to Carbon Markets) of the Paris Agreement, which pertains to a new global market and the augmentation of Carbon Finance for appropriate Global Climate Actions, have asked to consider CDM as One of the Market Based Mechanism to be Carried forward in the new system.

The COP 25 also largely failed to deliver the right Compensation Mechanism to vulnerable countries for loss and damage for irreversible impacts of climate change such as Sea Level Rise, Biodiversity Loss or Extreme Weather Events. The draft negotiating language text remained very weak on climate finance, as nothing was binding. It talks about generating financial support from existing resources and uses words like “urges” and “scale up” instead of “decide” or “recognize”. The text has not delivered what was expected out of it. Moreover, on the topic of loss and damage, the US has allegedly sought a liability waiver. A note circulated with heads of the delegations at COP 25 says Washington plans to ensure it doesn’t have to bear reparations associated with irreversible climate crisis impact in vulnerable countries. Simply saying US want to ensure that their polluting industries are protected from any kind of damages associated with climate crisis liability.

In 2015 at COP 21 in Paris, all nations agreed to take on Climate Change Mitigation Commitments or Targets, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), where all agreed to keep the world below the danger mark of 1.5°C increase in temperature from pre-industrial times. But now according to the United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP)’s Emissions Gap Report 2019, even if all countries do what they had agreed in the NDCs, global temperature would increase by 3.2°C by 2100. Not only that, nations who are particularly already rich and who have disproportionately used up the carbon budget, are unfortunately not even doing what they have agreed to do. For instance, according to German-based Climate Tracker, the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s climate actions are 4°C compatible; China, Japan are compatible to the extend 3-4°C; and, even the European Union’s actions are quite insufficient which is 2-3°C compatible.

Albeit Government Of India has initiated many drastic climate actions such as targeting 175 GW Renewable Energy by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030 and Voluntary Committing aggressive in its NDC a reduction of 33 to 35% GHG emission Intensity of its GDP, 40% Energy from Renewable, Hydro, Nuclear etc Non Fossil Fuel Sources in its total Energy Basket and achieving 2.5 to 3 billion metric ton CO2 Sequestrations by Planting Trees by 2030. But really can we achieve all of these, well in time ?

Mr Prakash Javadekar, Minister, Came out before Media in COP 25 recently, that  India has reduced its GHG emission Intensity of GDP by 21% now, although targeting 35% reduction by 2030. In fact, Government Of India, has published many reports on India’s action on UN SDGs since it’s inception in September 2015 by now, but in most of them unfortunately, the details on Goal 13 on Climate Change is missing. Most of Our States and Union Territories, although have prepared their Climate Change Action Plans, unfortunately those are still biting dust in the selves of the storage and not yet operationalized. Although we have huge CAMPA Fund available and States and Districts are allocated the same, for enhancing density our thinner Forest resources and improve greenery by massive tree plantations, achieving 2.5 to 3 billion tons of CO2 Sequestrations, still remains as a major Challenge, as long as We have not devised appropriate models for implementing the Schemes at grass-root level with right monitoring and reporting mechanism, ensuring highest level of survival rates?

A paper in Nature by Timothy Lenton and others put forward that the earth’s climatic system’s tipping points, interconnected through biophysical systems, are not as far away in a warming world as previously thought. Indeed, a few of them are already being experienced, like, drastic changes in ocean’s currents, and the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, accelerated melting of glaciers and thawing of permafrost etc. The Greenland ice sheet could disintegrate rapidly due to various positive feedbacks between 1.5 and 2 oC of warming. The authors contend that with release of additional warming gases such as methane, the California and Amazon dieback and other effects, the carbon budget may already be exhausted. In such cases, No cost-benefit analysis is going to help us. We are now surely, in an planetary emergency.

The global system of climate negotiations is clearly not working as it is not able to address present day the crisis. The primary reasons are the enduring dominance of the fossil fuel industry, unequal power relations among countries, the failure of elected leaders to take the situation seriously, the inability to impose penalties, when countries fail to meet targets or withdraw from agreements, the lack of capacity among many poor countries to help themselves in the dire-consequence, and the recalcitrance of rich countries in providing right financial, technology transfer and even other non-economic supports to poorer countries.

The new production gap report identifies the gap between,what countries promise for 2030 and what their fossil fuels production plans are. It shows that fossil fuel producers all over the globe enjoy privileges and continued support through subsidies, tax relief, research and development funding support, loss compensations, support in energy efficient and emission reduction equipment and overall the other assumption of liability and risk by governments. These processes are also locking these countries into a higher emissions trajectory than they plan or propose. This is where we need exceptional political leaders, who can take out of box strong political actions in the interests of the very basic survival of our only planet and humanity; which unfortunately is greatly missing. According to reports from the US based Think Tank, Center for Responsive Politics, the fossil fuel industry has spent about $218 million on lobbying in the US in last recent two years. They have also contributed about $27 million to Senate and House candidates and party committees in the 2020 election cycle. Similar lobbying and corruption in other poorer countries also do exist. As long as the political funding from oil and coal industry lobbies will not stop to electoral process of the nations, sooner or later, we can never protect ourselves from mass extinction.

There has been no major or transformative response so far from rich countries on the issue of climate change. While Europe has called for having net zero emissions by mid-century, it may still be too late. We also need yet another Gap Report on how much climate change-related destruction is occurring in developing countries and the shortfall in the international support they need to receive based on countries’ responsibilities and capacities. Given the very short time that the world has to deliver solutions, what has failed in the past should not be repeated. We can certainly not rely on carbon markets or assume that insurance will magically be available for the poor to survive extreme events.

Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar viewed at COP 25 that since annexed countries have not met their Kyoto Protocol targets yet, for fulfilling the pre-2020 commitments till the global stock takes places for bridging emission gaps, the same may be extended for another 3 years till 2023. He also comments that since Developed Nations have also not kept their Climate Finance Commitments, this is the high time they should make available the same to developing nations to face the kind of loss and damages they have suffered for the adverse impact of the climate crisis.

India is the fifth most vulnerable country globally to climate crisis. India has also recorded the highest number of deaths due to climate crisis-led disasters and the second highest monetary losses from its adverse impact in 2018. The Global Climate Risk Index 2020, published by environmental think tank German watch on the sidelines of COP 25 at Madrid, assessed 181 countries and quantified impacts of climate crisis on them through economic losses, losses to GDP and fatalities to arrive at a ranking, found Japan to be the most vulnerable followed by Philippines, Germany, Madagascar and India. The southwest monsoon in 2018 severely affected India; the analysis said adding that Kerala was especially impacted where 324 people died because of drowning or being buried in the landslides set off by the flooding, the worst in hundred years. Over 220, 000 people had to leave their homes, 20 000 houses and 80 dams were destroyed. The damage amounted to US$ 2.8 billion. India east coast was also hit by cyclones Titli and Gaja in October and November 2018. With wind speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour, cyclone Titli killed at least 8 people and left around 450,000 without electricity, according to the Index. The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 again, based on data from the Munich Re Nat-Cat-SERVICE, one of the largest databases on natural catastrophes, has another set of ranking for the period 1999- 2018, which is based on average values over a 20 year period. In the 1999 to 2018 period Puerto Rico is the most vulnerable followed by Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines and Pakistan. India is ranked 17th under this long term vulnerability Index. In 2010 rainy season’s  unpredictable floods have killed around 3000 thousands life in different part of India.

On the topic of loss and damage, the US has allegedly sought a liability waiver. A note circulated with heads of the delegations at COP 25 says Washington plans to ensure it doesn’t have to bear reparations associated with irreversible climate crisis impact in vulnerable countries. Simply saying US want to ensure that their polluting industries are protected from any kind of damages associated with climate crisis liability.

Hence the ultimate question is – Are we doing enough for our own survival? Are we really serious enough to initiate very strong and affirmative climate actions right now? Or we are waiting someone or other to do it for us? Especially When, Greenland is losing ice 7 times faster than in 1990s and this melting may lead to 40 million more people, exposed to coastal flooding by the end of the century?

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