COP21: Last big chance for a climate deal

COP21: Last big chance for a climate deal

The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties of United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change or COP 21 started on 30th November in...

The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties of United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change or COP 21 started on 30th November in Paris Le Bourget. Attended by world leaders from 147 countries, including the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, the inaugural day of the conference sent out a strong message to take urgent action to check the growing temperature of the world.

Convening the summit, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General said, “We need the world to know that we are headed to a low-emissions, climate-resilient future, and that there is no going back. The national climate plans submitted by more than 180 countries cover close to 100 per cent of global emissions. This is a good start. But we need to go much farther and much faster if we are to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.”
However, 4 days later, as the negotiations gets underway, differences of opinions are out in the open and countries under different negotiating blocks (US, EU, Least Development Countries or LDC, BRICS or Brazil, India, China AND South Africa begin to argue over what is acceptable to them and what is not.
After the first week, here are the 5 big features of the status of negotiations at COP21:
1. Striking a deal that will be legally mandatory: For nearly two decades, the world followed, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But, though it was a grand plan to save the world, it failed. The US Senate refused to ratify Kyoto. Canada pulled out. And, crucially, fast-growing China and India never acceded to cuts. Emissions soared in the years after Kyoto. Taking lessons from there, the world now agrees that in Paris, they need to craft a treaty that will be legally binding to every country. This means, every country has to cut their emissions by the set amounts.

2. Negotiations at the backdrop of INDCs: Earlier this year, UNFCCC member countries began to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contibutions (INDC). This is actually a public outline from each country of what they will do after 2010 to cut the carbon emissions. So, INDCs are a reflection of each country’s ambition for reducing emissions, taking into account its domestic circumstances and capabilities. Some countries may also address how they’ll adapt to climate change impacts, and what support they need from, or will provide to, other countries to adopt low-carbon pathways and to build climate resilience. For example, highlights of India’s INDC is producing 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity by 2022 and also reduce its per capita carbon emissions by 33-35% 2030 .
So far 157 countries have submitted their INDCs and the negotiation of a climate deal will be done keeping this as a reference.
3. New solar alliance launched: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a global alliance to expand solar power in tropical countries. Calling it “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness”, the Prime Minister said, “The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. This will be the foundation of the new economy of the new century.”

Over 120 countries, mostly those between the tropics of cancer and Capricorn, are members of the new alliance, which aims to push solar power generation. India already has a plan to produce 100 GW of electricity through solar energy by 2022, making it the world’s largest programme of its kind.

4. India will be crucial to the success or failure of COP21:
At the successive COPs, India has demanded that all negotiations on a climate deal should be centered around ‘equity’. This means, India insists that when it comes to reduce carbon emissions, there should be a differentiation between developed and developing countries (This is because the developed countries have produced much more pollution than the developing countries. So, they should commit to cut more emissions than the developing countries). Developed countries are opposed to this, they feel since developing countries are producing more greenhouse gas right now, they should make an equal commitment.
As the COP21 began, several countries and media outlets are talking of how a disagreement could make India refuse to sign a climate deal. And since India is a crucial partner – the 3rd biggest carbon emitter in the world -, no climate deal can work without India’s participation.

5. Road map to the climate fund demanded:
To help developing and under developed countries cope with climate change by adapting to it, a Green Climate Fund was created in 2010. Developed countries had promised to donate US$100 billion per year by 2020 to the fund. But they have not done it. Now, India is demanding a clear roadmap to the USD 100 billion per year promised by rich nations by 2020.

Apart from these 5 highlights, several developments are taking place every day in the summit. Coincidentally, this is the first Climate summit since the UN and the world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this September. There are 17 global goals in the SDGs list and achievement of several of these goals will be heavily dependent on the fight against climate change. These include water, gender, peace, and poverty. There is, therefore, an enhanced focus on these issues at the COP.
Will the summit, then, meet the high expectations from millions of people around the world and see the signing of a climate agreement? That remains to be seen.
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