“Blah, Blah, Blah” at Glasgow

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Abdul Hadi

Rather than falling by half, carbon emission is on track to rise by 16 per cent by 2030

As the post-Cold War global mistrust and lack of mutual collaboration refuse to give way, the time-bomb of global warming continues to tick on the future of humanity, like many other international challenges.
This lack of willingness to work in harmony was well-demonstrated at the just concluded two-week 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, at Glasgow, Scotland. The conference, attended by delegates of 200 parties, finally adopted an outcome document, but not without extended heated debates and sharp criticism by environmentalists.
Frankly speaking, even the passage of the final global climate deal by COP26 did not mark any significant move forward on the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The conference aimed to accelerate action toward the goal of the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and cut CO2 emission by half by 2030.
“We did not achieve these goals of the conference but we have some building blocks for progress,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his video statement for the concluding session.
Even the provision of these building blocks would have not been possible if environmentalists, like Greta Thunberg, had not reprimanded world leaders for their evasive attitude toward greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
“Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net Zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but have so far led to no action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises,” Thunberg had said at the Youth4Climate Summit at Milan, Italy, in September.
It was perhaps these harsh words and sharp criticism of Thunberg and other climate activists that forced the leaders to go into
“emergency mode,” Guterres said, emphasising the need for “ending fossil fuel submission, phasing out coal, putting a price on carbon, protecting vulnerable communities and delivering the $100 billion climate finance commitment.”
The threat posed by greenhouse gas emission and the ensuing global temperature rise to humanity is so real that surpassing the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold risks unleashing far more climate change effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems.
The world has already heated to around 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Each of the last four decades was hotter than any decade since 1850.
According to scientists, a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, resulting in extreme rainfall/ floods. At places, it leads to severe droughts as it increases evaporation.
This year, torrential rains flooded China and west Europe and raised temperatures to a record level in the Pacific Northwest. Greenland saw massive melting while the Mediterranean and Siberia witnessed scorching wildfires and Brazil was hit by several droughts.
At 1.5 degrees Celsius, there is a good chance to prevent most of Greenland and the West Antarctic from collapsing. That would limit sea limit rise to a few feet by the end of the century. But if the temperature rises above 2 degrees Celsius, it is poised to smash ice sheet rising sea levels up to 10 meters.
That is liable to destroy coral reefs and fish habitats, erode coastlines and inundate small islands and coastal cities. Insects and animals would lose habitat. It would also have a negative impact on food production and increase mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria and dengue.
A rising temperature up to 2 degrees Celsius would further exacerbate wildfires in hotter atmospheres. That is why there is more emphasis on halving CO2 emissions by 2030 from the 2010 level and cutting them to net-zero by 2050.
But rather than falling by half, which is needed to keep global heating under the internationally agreed limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon emission is on track to rise by 16 per cent by 2030. In the coming decades, heat would become more frequent and more severe.
To preempt the impending environmentalist cataclysm, there is an immediate need to place curbs on carbon emission and help nations already impacted by global heating. There is a dire need to ratchet up ambitions on national carbon reduction plans and deliver on the committed $100 billion annually to developing nations and improve rules governing carbon markets. The gap between priorities of the rich and the poor nations is, however, compelling climate law and policy specialists, like Stephen Leonard, to utter that “all countries are playing on hardball.”
“The EU wants the highest ambition possible. The African countries want as much finance for adaption as possible,”
Though China has confirmed its consistency in furthering its environmental protection efforts, Australia and Japan want to be able to trade as much carbon as possible.
Both Japan and Australia believe that a technology-led response is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also ensuring economic growth. A recent leak has regrettably revealed that Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia have been trying to influence the UN to play down the need to move away from fossil fuel. India, the fourth largest polluter in the world, says it can achieve carbon neutrality only by 2070.
As for Pakistan, its Nationally Determined Contribution commits to cutting 50 per cent of projected emissions and achieving 60 per cent renewable energy by 2030. “We have witnessed a deliberate and cynical effort by a few nations to create a charter for cheating, offsets and loopholes,” regretted Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, in a tweet last week.
Anyhow, despite the failure of COP26 to enlist commitments for drastic emission cut, financial support for adaptation measures and compensation for climate-induced losses, the conference finally agreed on a deal and asked for larger targets to be set for emission cut for the next year.

The first week of the conference saw about 100 nations committing to slash their emission of methane by at least 30 per cent by 2030.

The UN Secretary-General aptly said of the adopted outcome document, “(It) reflects the interests, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today.”

The writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.