Editorial: Deal at COP27 the only saving grace

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Tuesday, November 22, 2022, 09:58 AM IST
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The biggest takeaway of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) that ended in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday was the agreement to create a ‘Loss and Damage’ fund for developing countries and those hit hard by climate disasters. This was the most significant outcome of the meet which disappointed on many other fronts. However, there was no clarity on the logistics of the funding as the EU and the US resisted all attempts to create a separate corpus. It was agreed to set up a transitional committee to work out the nitty gritty of the funding arrangement. Its recommendations are to be presented at COP28 next year, but there is every likelihood that the actual funding will take years to materialise.

The agreement came after days of hectic wrangling with the conference extending for nearly two days beyond the scheduled close to thrash out a consensus draft. It was a victory for those nations hardest hit by climate change despite not being among the polluters as they do not have significant greenhouse gas emissions. Pakistani delegates, who cited the recent devastating floods in their country that killed over a thousand people, made an impactful presentation to reiterate the demand for such funding. The L&D fund will apply to those countries where the impact of climate change cannot be avoided either by mitigation (i.e. cutting greenhouse gas emissions) or adaptation (adopting practices to tackle climate change).

The demand for such a fund, which has been 30 years in the making, was initiated by small island nations most at risk to the impacts of climate change. The fund will provide not only for economic damage to property but also cover loss of livelihoods, and the destruction of biodiversity and sites with cultural importance. This broadens the scope for affected nations to claim compensation.

However, apart from this landmark agreement COP27 had nothing much to show. At COP26 in Glasgow it was agreed to phase out coal and the hope was that COP27 would take this pledge forward. India and other developing countries’ proposal to phase out all fossil fuels did not make it to the final agreement. There was also disappointment that the agreement left out the call for peaking of emissions before 2025 so that temperatures do not rise above 1.5 degrees C from pre-industrial levels. The transition to green energy was not forcefully dealt with. The text of the agreement okaying low emissions fuel was seen as a loophole for use of gas, which though less polluting is still a fossil fuel. At Glasgow last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that India would cut its emissions to net zero or become carbon neutral by 2070. India is the world's fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US and the EU and Mr Modi’s pledge to get 50% of India’s energy from renewable resources by 2030 and reduce total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes was seen as significant and a pointer to real climate action. The Paris climate meet in 2015 was a landmark one but its promises remain unfulfilled. COP27 like other climate summits was marked by squabbling and frenzied discussions between the developed and developing nations, highlighting the familiar divide that has prevented any tangible action on the climate front. The need for urgent steps to tackle the menace of climate change is highlighted at every stage but as long as economics trumps the attempt to save the planet, there will be no discernible change.

That rich countries have not expressed any real intent to reduce their carbon footprint is apparent from the reluctance to commit to carbon neutral goals. There is much more to be done on the climate front if future generations are to survive the impact of global warming. It is, therefore, incumbent upon nations, rich and poor, to work towards the goals of combating global climate change. COP27 delivered on one front, it is now imperative for leaders to work together to meet their lofty targets on emissions and temperature. COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates in 2023. What better venue to pledge climate goals than the oil-rich Gulf kingdom?

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