COP26 is the big meet. To save the planet. To make new promises. To sign new protocols. To handle the crisis. To mitigate the risks. To clean the world. The Big news is that the Big leaders are all gathered in the Big conference. Big Breaking news- President Biden apologizes for American "disinterest" in the Paris Accord. COP26 is a special edition. The world shattered by the earth's retaliation on the environmental abuse by its inhabitants went on a rampage killing spree through the Coronavirus. This virus has affected all countries. This virus has infected the kings and the paupers, the rich and the poor, the racists and the chauvinists, the powerful and the powerless.
The earth is cracking under the pressure of too many people, too much smoke, too much carbon dioxide, too little greenery, too little oxygen. This has created toxicity in the air, in the seas, in water to a level where germs, viruses and bacteria are going to nourish and flourish. Their strength and speed is to the extent that they will attack and defeat science and technology any time. That is why COP26 is a matter of survival for all. COP26 is the Conference of Parties' 26th session that is being held to literally save the planet from an upclose and front existential threat. These 197 parties are the United Nations' member countries, plus a few small non-UN member countries and the European Union, all of whom support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The facts are horrifying. Greenhouse gases waste from human burning fossil fuels are heating up the climate more than 1 degree Celsius. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has warned that if the planet heats up to 2 degrees Celsius it will create devastation that will make the planet unlivable. The target for COP26 is to keep the warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Climate change is permanent. Global warming is not a future warning; it is already here and here with a vengeance. It would have remained a buzzword had corona not devastated each and every one on the earth. Nature has struck back, so nature needs to be treated with urgency and emergency. Corona has created a renewed interest in this subject. Like all change processes climate change has some inherent problems:
Climate injustice-The tragic part of climate change is that those who contribute the most to environmental degradation are least affected and those who contribute least are the most affected. It is literally rubbish being produced in the first world being dumped on the third world. Of all the carbons humans have pumped in the world the United States is responsible for 25% of it. Yet countries like Pakistan that have not pumped even 1% due to its low level of industrialization are in the top 10 countries that are vulnerable to the climate hazards. Maldives, for example, a great beach holiday resort, is at the risk of disappearing as ocean and seal levels rise and coastal flooding becomes intense. The USA had refused to be part of Kyoto Protocol and Paris Accord and many others. Air and ozone are boundary-less. Toxic gases have hit America, Europe too. For the first time we saw New York and London flooding. Hurricanes and earthquakes have become frequent and more devastating. That is why at COP26 the concern for this issue is cross country. The danger is that as developed economies are hit by the pandemic the resource constraint may push back action on their commitments.
Climate Change Leaks-It is the season of leaks. A BBC report reveals a scientific report on Climate Change that brings together 32,000 submissions by governments and experts on tackling climate change. The obvious attempt to serve their own agenda through this so-called "impartial evidence" is self-explanatory. For example, Australian government officials say that coal fired power plants are necessary despite ending coal being a COP26 goal. Brazil and Argentina reject the finding that vegetable-based diets instead of meat-based diets can cut greenhouse gasses by a substantial degree. It is not difficult to understand as they are a meat producing region. India feels that "nuclear energy" is a good option. This tendency of climate selfishness, was and remains, a big stumbling block to making real progress.
Trust deficit-The big rhetoric, bigger promises, biggest agreements have traditionally resulted in the smallest achievements. With hidden agendas, suspicious leaks, and constant agreements based on disagreements, trust deficits have widened. The Americans view China as a big defaulter and China views the US as climate betrayer. That is why there has to be an attempt to keep politics at bay to have a minimum acceptable agenda of working regardless of differences.
There needs to be a change in climate change approach to bring about real change. For the developed world now hit by rising tides and wild fires they need to shift their modus of providing aid, regulating industries and managing climate conflicts. For the under-developed countries there needs to be a united voice for creating climate justice and action to enable a bigger say in conferences like COP26. Some feasible changes are:
Climate Tied Aid-The western model of aid is normally tied to military or human development support. It is time for the West and its institutions to shift gears from military support to climate change support. Aid tied to achieving greenhouse gas reductions, cleaner fuels, etc., would make adherence much more effective than simply asking them to be part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Climate Country Balance Sheets-Companies have started announcing their social audits along with financial audits results. It is time for companies and countries not only to publish and measure their economic variables but environmental variables too. Each country should have global key climate change indicators dashboard and should announce measurable surpluses or deficits in these key environmental areas.
Climate Change Activists and Advocates-Climate Change activism has got a new life due to social media. Youth champions like Greta Thunberg have made this a potentially potent field to assert environmental rights. The UN needs to develop forums for various age groups, geographical groups, etc., to keep the debate live and diversified. Similarly, like G77 of trade, there needs to be G77 of climate change to raise the less developed countries' level of participation in elite forums.
COP stands for Conference of Parties but is normally laughed at as just another party to make lofty speeches. Greta Thunberg has already said that "COP26 was a failure and just a PR exercise". Experts, however, have termed COP26 as the "last best chance" for the world to change. It may be the last but to make it the best chance climate change needs a change of intent, a change of mindsets, a change of approach, a change of behavior in how people respect, value and treat nature, habitat and the environment.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021