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Climate change and COP26

Dr. Anita Raj Hembrom and Dr. Punam Hembrom

Department of Zoology, S.P College

Climate change and COP26

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC)defines “climate change” as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”

Climate is sometimes mistaken for weather. But climate is different from weather because it is measured over a long period of time, whereas weather can change from day to day, or from year to year. The climate of an area includes seasonal temperature, average rainfall, and wind patterns. Tropical, temperate and arid climates are some of the examples of climates.

Climate change is the long –term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could be refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. Climate change may cause weather patterns to be less predictable. These unexpected weather patterns can make it difficult to maintain and grow crops in any regions that rely on farming because expected temperature and rainfall levels can no longer be relied on. Climate change has also been connected with other damaging weather events such as more frequent and more intense hurricans, floods, downpour and winter storms. All these extreme weather events are threatening lives and livelihoods.

The cause of current climate change is largely due to human activity like burning of fossil fuels(Natural gas,Oil, & Coal). Combustion of these materials release greenhouse gases, such as Carbon Dioxide-80%, Methane-10%, Nitrous Oxide-7% and Fluorinated Gases-3%. The greenhouse effect is a good thing in one way for our planet Earth. It warms the planet to its comfortable average of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) and keep life on Earth well livable. Without it the world be a frozen uninhabitable place, more like Mars and we will be in another ICE -AGE. The problem is, mankind voracious burning of fossils fuels for energy is artificially amping up the natural greenhouse effect. These greenhouse gases trap heat from sun’s rays inside the atmosphere causing Earth’s temperature to rise. This rise in the Planet’s temperature is called Global Warming.

The world is now about 1.2°C warmer than it was in the 19th century and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by 50%. With further uncontrolable increasing warming, some regions of our planet could become uninhabitable as farmlands may turn into desert or get flooded. People in poorer countries will suffer the most as they do not have the money to adopt the climate change. If temperature continues to rise, islands nations could disappear under rising sea levels as sea level is raising about 3 millimeters per year. Other countries will suffer extreme heat, drought and food shortages, while many more nations will be vulnerable to extreme rainfall , flooding and lightning strikes . Scientist believe that at least 550 species of animals could be lost or get extinct this centuary if action is not taken. For examples: The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has already lost half of its coral since 1995 due to warmer seas.

Climate change is a global emergency that goes beyond national borders. It is an issue that requires coordinated solutions at all levels and without drastic action today, adapting to catastrophe impacts of climate change in the future will be more difficult and costly. The UN family is at the forefront of the effort to save our planet. In 1992,its “Earth Summit” produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) as a first step in addressing the climate change problem. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 Marsh 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. The 197 countries that have ratified the Convention are Parties to the Convention. The ultimate aim of the Convention is to prevent “DANGEROUS” human interference with the climate system. The UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and 2015 Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC Secretariat focus on facilitating the intergovernmental climate change negotiations, provide technical expertise and assist in the analysis and review of climate change information reported by Parties and in the implementation of the Kyoto protocol and Paris Agreement.

One of the largest and most important Annual United Nations Conference is the Conference of Parties or COP. The first conference (COP1) was held in 1995 in Berlin. India hosted the eighth COP from 23 October to 1st November, 2002. This year the 26th conference of Parties (COP26) was organized in the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland , U.K., from 31st October to 12th November 2021. The president of the conference was UK. Cabinat minister Alok Sharma, a British Politician. Delayed for a year due to COVID-19 pandemic, it was 26th COP to the UNFCCC, the 3rd meeting of the Parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 16th meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

This UN Climate Change Conference brought together leaders from more than 190 contries, thousands of negotiators, researchers , media person and citizens to strengthen a global response to the treat of climate change. It is a pivotal movement for the world to come together and accelerate the climate action plan. COP 26 was the moment countries revisited climate pledge made under the 2015 Paris Agreement, (COP21). Members countries had agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius , compared to Pre- Industrial Levels’ in Paris Agreement. By 2021, Bhutan and Suriname are the only two countries that have achieved net zero emission. According to UNFCCC, COP26 four main goals were as follows:

1. Secure global net –zero by mid- century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

The first and most critical goal of COP26 is to ensure that Article 2 of the Paris Agreement-which seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius remains achievable. The UK has already commiteed to bringing 78% emission reductions by 2035 and is on the road to net –zero by 2050. India has also taken important steps. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given five crucial steps or commitments called Panchamrit. They are –

a) First agenda was to raise the non-fossil fuel based energy capacity of the country to 500 GW by 2030,

b) The country will reduce the total projected carbon emission by 1 billion tonnes between now and the year 2030,

c) The carbon intensity of the economy would be reduced to less than 45% by 2030,

d) 50% of the country’s energy requirement would be met using renewable energy sources.

e)India would strive to achieve net-zero emission by 2070 and become carbon neutral nation

Different countries will have different pathways to achieve this 1.5 degree target.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The second overarching goal of COP26 is to drive action plans for adaptation to avoid loss and damage caused by climate change, including by protecting and restoring ecosystems, building defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture. Areas of focus for discussion around these goals will include:

a) Assisting nations most vulnerable to climate change

b) Implementing and tracking progress of Global Goal on Adaptation , a concept created under Article 7 of the Paris Agreement

c) Developing National Adaptation Plans and Adaptation Communications

3. Mobilise finance

The third goal of COP26 recognises that funding is required in order for countries to manage the impacts of climate change and propel the transition to a climate- resilient future. For, this to happen, finance must be mobilized.

Developing countries need support to ensure that the climate transition is just and equitable for all. In order to ensure this, developed countries agreed at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 that they would commit to raising at least USD100 billion every year from 2020, a target which is currently not met. The final components to achieve this goal is to increased focus on the role of business, banks, insurers and investors in shifting the global economy to a net –zero future.

4. Work together to deliver

The Final goal of COP26 is to ensure that all are met by creating the ‘Paris Rulebook’ which will set out the rules and logistics required to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Along with the goals discussed above, other key insights were as follows:

A. Nationally Determined Contributions- Parties to the Paris Agreement were required under Article 4 to make a pledge known as an NDC indicating that party’s national climate action plan and how it intended to achieve the NDC.

B. Carbon market mechanisms- With a variety of carbon market and other non-state mechanisms for emissions trading to be negotiated at COP26, it is anticipated that there may be increased certainty for business and industries.

C. Transparency – Changes to the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) at COP26 are likely to result in increasingly robust domestic greenhouse gas emission disclosure regimes for emitting organisations.

D. Green finance and Investement – There will likely be increasing pressure on and from financers and investors to support the transition to a low carbon future . The alliance brings together over firms responsible for over USD70 trillion in assets to drive net zero initiative backed by science- based guidelines across the financial system.

COP26 marked a step forward in global efforts to address climate change. However , it has added that how far COP26 cab be considered a success will be depend on follow-up actions over the coming year and beyond.

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