The newest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-led body that periodically releases a synthesis report of the latest climate science, is clear: the climate crisis is well underway and it has been caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The report says the global average temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times and it could reach 1.5 degrees Celsius in 20 years’ time. Remember that under the Paris Agreement 1.5 degrees Celsius has been prescribed as the danger limit!
The UN’s Paris Agreement was a landmark international accord signed back in 2015 to address climate change. The agreement aims to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels “while pursuing the means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees”.
Almost every country in the world adopted the agreement and there were commitments from all the major polluting countries to cut their climate emissions and to strengthen those commitments over time.
The Paris Agreement was supposed to be operationalised last year, but the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will be held this year in November in Glasgow in the UK.
The Glasgow COP will be crucial for humanity: current policies suggest that the planet is set for 3 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century which would be catastrophic for us all. We are already seeing extreme rainfall, unprecedented heatwaves and alarming sea level rise at just 1.1 degrees of warming — imagine what would happen when we reach 1.5 degrees or even cross 2 degrees!
Leaders from 196 countries including Pakistan are now all set to meet in Glasgow for the major climate conference. They will be asked to agree on drastic action to limit climate change. Global temperatures have risen faster in the last few decades than at any point in the past 2,000 years. This summit is extremely important to our survival on this planet; humanity has to find a way to control climate change together. The window for action is closing fast.
Countries are being asked to prepare ambitious targets to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere by 2030. They will also be asked how they will achieve “net zero” — i.e. no more emissions going into the atmosphere than are removed — by 2050. Since burning fossil fuels is a major cause of emissions, countries would have to agree to end the use of coal, stop deforestation and switch to renewable energy resources soon.
Developing countries like Pakistan that are not high emitters of greenhouse gases and are the hardest hit by climate change say that funding to fight and adapt to climate change is essential. They are demanding compensation for the effects it will have on them in the form of a Loss and Damage mechanism.
They are also demanding money to help green their economies. The Green Climate Fund was supposed to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.
However, in recent international climate meetings, rich countries have shown reluctance to put forward the funding needed to enable developing nations to cope with and respond to the climate crisis. Last year, Pakistan co-chaired the multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund.
As vice president of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Pakistan has been playing an active role recently in the climate negotiations. A proper delegation will be sent to Glasgow to ensure that the country fully participates in COP26 as a responsible state.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2021.
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