Lessons From COP28: How to Save What We Can

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Why in News?

  • Recently, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its 14th Emissions Gap Report (2023). 
  • The report was released just before the Conference of Parties (COP28) meeting in Dubai, highlighting the extent to which the world must reduce its carbon emissions to mitigate the global temperature increase.

Emissions Gas Report

  • The emission gap measures the difference between what will be the world’s emission level by adopting mitigation/adaptation measures as planned compared to what it should be to avoid climate shocks.
  • This report gives details of how far the world at large is away from what is required to be done to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 when compared to the temperature during the pre-industrial period.

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and their Origins

  • GHGs mainly comprise of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and other synthetic gases.
  • CO2 has a dominant share in the total GHGs and its effects can last for more than a century.
  • Thoughmethane is about 28 times more potent than CO2, its generation is much lower than CO2 and its ill-effects get wiped out in about 10 years. 
  • Most of the CO2 that is being generated is through the burning of fossil fuels for power generation and process heat (43 per cent), transport (20 per cent), manufacturing and construction (18 per cent), buildings (8 per cent), and industry (5 per cent). 

Corelation Between GHGs and Global Warming: Global Temperature Rise

  • The average temperature of Earth has been on the rise due to a substantial increase in GHGs.
  • These gases originate from various sources such as energy-related activities, industry, agriculture, land use, and waste.
  • In comparison to pre-industrial temperatures, Earth's mean temperature has already increased by approximately 1 degree Celsius.
  • GHGs play a pivotal role in trapping heat in the atmosphere, hindering its escape. This phenomenon contributes to the overall temperature rise on Earth.
  • The consequences of this temperature surge are evident in various extreme weather events.Unprecedented rains, floods, increased droughts, severe storms, and cyclones are among the notable impacts.

What Should be the Mitigation Plans Going Forward?

  • Transition in Power Generation
    • To shift away from reliance on fossil fuels in power generation, a pivotal strategy involves adopting renewable sources.
    • Solar and wind energy emerge as key players in this transition.
  • Transformation in Transportation
    • Addressing the transportation sector necessitates a shift towards electric and hydrogen-based vehicles.
    • This move is essential for reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuels in the quest for sustainability.
  • Address Industrial Sector Challenges
    • The industrial sector poses a unique challenge in the transition away from fossil fuels.
    • This challenge is particularly pronounced due to the high-intensity heat requirements of industries like iron and steel and aluminium.
    • Current renewable energy sources face limitations in meeting these demands, making the replacement of fossil fuels in this sector a formidable task.
  • Climate Financing Mechanism Based on the Historical Responsibility
    • Moving away from fossil fuels is a capital-intensive process and developing countries are not able to fund such activities.
    • Hence, there is a need for the developed world to transfer not only finance but also technology.
    • The developed world is responsible for the excessive carbon footprints and it is only natural that they pay for the damage.
    • Logically, it is the principle of polluter pays which should be applicable here.
    • Countries like the US have a cumulative CO2 emission which is 25 per cent of the global emissions and the corresponding figures for the EU and China are 22 per cent and 12.7 per cent, respectively.
    • As compared to this, India’s cumulative emissions are only 3 per cent. In per capita terms also, it is only 1.8 tons, where the world average is 4.7 tons.

Progress of Ongoing COP28 Climate Meeting

  • Anticipation of Fossil Fuels' Entry at COP28
    • There is a strong indication that fossil fuels, a longstanding omission in climate negotiations, are likely to be introduced at COP28.
    • The pressure to address fossil fuels is intensified by the global community's insufficient progress toward achieving 2030 climate targets.
    • Sultan Al Jaber has extended an invitation to countries to submit their proposals on the phase-out of fossil fuels.
    • This move signals a shift in focus and a willingness to address the role of fossil fuels in the climate discourse.
  • Potential Mention of Fossil Fuel Phase-Down: COP28's final decisions might include a mention of the need to phase down fossil fuels, marking a potentially radical departure as it has remained unmentioned for three decades.
  • No Agreement on Global Stockate Report
    • At COP28 meeting no decision has yet been taken on the most contentious issue; the global stock take report.
    • This report will decide the way forward for climate change, especially on issues of climate equity and phasing out of fossil fuels.
  • Positive Developments on Loss and Damage Fund: There has been some positive movement on the loss and damage fund which has been operationalised. 

Way Forward

  • Need to Move Beyond Statistical Jugglery on Climate Financing
    • Since the past 15 years or so, there has been talk of transferring resources to the tune of $100 billion per year (which is only about 15 per cent compared to what is required to fund adequate mitigation and adaptation activities) to developing countries.
    • But this is not really happening. OECD data tries to show that almost $80 billion per year is being transferred as of now, but this is really a statistical jugglery and countries need to move beyond this point.
  • More Actions Are Required
    • To combat climate change, each country has drawn up plans called nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
    • The latest emissions gap report of the UNEP has stated that going by the latest NDCs, there is going to be a temperature rise between 2.5 degree Celsius and 2.9 degree Celsius by the turn of the century.
    • These figures should be seen as indicative only, but they are alarming enough. Clearly, more needs to be done. 

Conclusion

  • Climate change is a global phenomenon affecting all countries equally. Therefore, the world does not need unilateral mechanisms, rather a collective fight supported by rich nations.
  • The developing countries did not create the problem, and have limited means to pay for a clean up and setting up mitigation plans.
  • While there have been some positive developments on loss and damage fund, there is still a long way to go to contain the rising temperature and rich countries must walk the talk on all that can be saved.

Q1) What is The Kyoto Protocol? 

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997. Owing to a complex ratification process, it entered into force on 16 February 2005. Currently, there are 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. In short, the Kyoto Protocol operationalises the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by committing industrialised countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. 

Q2) What is UNEP?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading environmental authority in the United Nations system. UNEP uses its expertise to strengthen environmental standards and practices while helping implement environmental obligations at the country, regional and global levels.


Source: The Indian Express