As the 28th edition of the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) is scheduled to be held during November 30-December 12 in United Arab Emirates (UAE), there is still a yawning gap between what is desired in terms of total phasing-out of fossil fuel so that average global warming temperature could be kept below 1.5C, and the pace and scale on which it is taking place.

Moreover, the reason behind declaring this threshold relates to the irreversible impacts of climate change crisis, as pointed out, for instance, by a September 4, World Economic Forum (WEF) published article ‘The 1.5C climate threshold: What it means and why it matters’ as ‘In 2015, in response to the growing urgency of climate impacts, nearly every country in the world signed onto the Paris Agreement, a landmark international treaty under which 195 nations pledged to hold the Earth’s temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” and going further, aim to “limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” …In 2022, the average global temperature was about 1.15 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.’

The fast-unfolding climate change crisis in terms of the increasing intensity, and frequency of climate change-related disasters, there is all the more concern to speed up the efforts in this regard.

Yet, the state of affairs is lacklustre to say the least, as pointed out, for instance, by a recently released ‘The state of climate action 2023 report’ by World Resources Institute (WRI) and others, as follows: ‘This sectoral report card shows that transformations are not occurring at the required pace and scale. Only 1 of 42 indicators assessed – the share of electric vehicles in passenger car sales – is on track to reach its 2030 target. …Despite being halfway through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015, with goals set for 2030, progress is lagging on the adoption of target-setting in both the public and private sector.’

Moreover, highlighting the same report, a November 14, Guardian published article ‘World behind on almost every policy required to cut carbon emissions, research finds’ pointed out: ’Coal must be phased out seven times faster than is now happening, deforestation must be reduced four times faster, and public transport around the world built out six times faster than at present, if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown, new research has found.

Countries are falling behind on almost every policy required to cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite progress on renewable energy and the uptake of electric vehicles. This failure makes the prospect of holding global temperatures to 1.5C above preindustrial levels even more remote…’

In addition, the Report also provided some concrete recommendations for effectively dealing with the climate change crisis, as follows:

  • (1) Dramatically increase growth in solar and wind power…

  • (2) Phase out coal in electricity generation seven times faster – which is equivalent to retiring roughly 240 average-sized coal-fired power plants each year through 2030.

  • (3) Increase the coverage of rapid transit six times faster, with the top 50 highest-emitting cities collectively adding about 1,300 kilometers of metro rails, light-rail train tracks, and/or bus lanes per year throughout this decade.

  • (4) Reduce the annual rate of deforestation – equivalent to deforesting 15 football (soccer) fields per minute in 2022 – four-times faster.

  • (5) Shift to healthier, more sustainable diets eight times faster by lowering per capita consumption of ruminant meat (e.g., beef) to approximately two servings per week across high-consuming regions (Europe, the Americas, and Oceania).

  • (6) Scale up global climate finance by nearly $500 billion per year throughout the remainder of this decade.’

So, the two most important issues that COP28 should address are with regard to effectively dealing with fossil fuels, and provision of climate finance, especially to the developing countries.

In this regard, it is important that the overall fiscal space of developing countries should also be enhanced as much as possible.

Here, in addition to significantly intensifying domestic resource mobilization effort in individual developing countries in particular, for which over-board austerity policies should also be reined in, it is important that rich, advanced countries should use the COP28 platform to initiate both major debt relief steps – as compensation to the high carbon-footprint of these countries over the years to the developing countries, which are significantly much lower the ladder in this regard – and throw their support as major financiers of International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) pool of resources or special drawing rights (SDRs) towards annual release of climate change-related SDR allocation towards developing countries in general, with greater allocation made towards highly climate vulnerable countries, for example Pakistan, among a number of others.

Highlighting the extent of climate financing needed annually for instance, a recent Financial Times (FT) published article ‘Developing countries need up to $387bn [billion] a year to adapt to extreme weather, says UN’ pointed out the findings of United Nations (UN) in this regard as ’Developing countries need up to $387bn a year to adapt to climate change but flows of international public cash are faltering at the same time as the effects of global warming become more disastrous, the UN has said.

The amount needed had increased by some $47bn since the last annual assessment by the UN Environment Programme… The 55 most climate-vulnerable economies alone have experienced losses and damages of more than $500bn in the last two decades, a figure the UN said would increase as the effects of climate change worsened.’

It is therefore exceedingly important that geopolitics is effectively handled at the earliest, especially in the wake of highly serious conflict in the Middle East recently, and before that the one is terms of the war in Ukraine that is also still ongoing, so that the existential threat of climate change crisis could be handled with the much-needed desired level of focus, and multilateralism.

A November 12, FT published article ‘COP28 faces a giant communication challenge’ underlined the importance of clear messaging by COP28 meetings to help generate needed focus, and sense of urgency with regard to the climate change crisis.

It pointed out in this regard: ’The UN COP28 climate talks in Dubai, which begin at the end of November, will take place amid a confluence of geopolitical, health and economic emergencies. …This year is on course to be the hottest on record and has breached the dreaded 1.5C global warming threshold several times.

The Earth faces 16 climatic tipping points. In such a context, COP28’s communication campaign should make it crystal clear how growth and poverty reduction are predicated on cutting carbon emissions. …Geopolitical turmoil makes focusing on climate harder. But with the planet’s vital signs heading the wrong way, climate mitigation through decarbonisation needs to be prioritised, as all else depends on it.’

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Dr Omer Javed

The writer holds a PhD in Economics degree from the University of Barcelona, and has previously worked at the International Monetary Fund. His contact on ‘X’ (formerly ‘Twitter’) is @omerjaved7

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KU Nov 18, 2023 10:19am
The crisis is already upon us, and expecting our leaders to do something about it is a foolish wish. If data on changing weather patterns and heat wave in our country was available, it would certainly show a dangerous and disturbing trend that has affected our agriculture yields and sowing seasons. The farmers have been experiencing this change for the last five years, and after successive Summer crop failures due to high temperatures, farmers are now faced with reduced Winter crop seasons. In the absence of short-season wheat seeds or other drought-resistant varieties of crops, we are stumped and going towards food shortages. The painful thing is that leaders and governance are ignoring these red flags.
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