What does it take to reverse the ill effects of climate change? A conference. A meeting. Tonnes of money. Well, the answer is both yes and no. We need to sit together and discuss the effects of climate change. We certainly need to juggle with mind-numbing data on planetary changes which are underway. We must engage with challenges to reduce heating of the planet, which is as of now spiking out of control. But we must do so with clear intent and must not we dither.
The ongoing COP25 consultations going on in the Spanish town of Madrid are witnessing a mélange of views and counterviews on the subject of climate change—being presented by participating nations on their commitments. While developed nations attempt to sidestep the overbearing climate change problem, the developing countries seek to limit their commitments, and underdeveloped and poor countries, especially in Africa, look at a gloomy future for their riparian forests, wetlands and special ecosystems. A question must be asked at this stage: what are we up against?
There is no denying the fact that we are terribly running out of time. The planet’s temperature is rising. The year 2019, in fact, brings a close to the hottest decade in earth as per records. Scientists were appalled to notice that at the North Pole in February 2019, it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit, when usually it is at least 50 degrees less warm in a usual season. In the year 2012, Arctic sea ice cover dipped to its lowest levels ever recorded. In August 2019, the Prime Minister of Iceland attended the funeral of Okjikull glacier lost to global warming.
Globally, arid conditions at places have arisen, and it has led to the generation of firestorms and sea is in turbulence as more typhoons and cyclones threaten human and animal habitations like never before. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change alarmingly announced in 2016 that “Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.”
The world is warmer than it was at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and as per the UN estimates, if this trend continues, the global temperature could further be expected to rise to 3.2 to 3.9 degrees by the end of the century. This may have devastating effects on the environment as a whole. According to 2019 WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high. This brings us to the commitments and action plans.
Climate emission targets of India are ambitious, but is the government doing enough? It is noteworthy that India’s greenhouse gas emissions have doubled in the past 25 years. As per the experts, India has employed a great amount on renewable energy generation but needs to do more on planned sector expansion. There is a growing concern on over-dependence on fossil fuels. To meet energy requirements, coal and oil lead the chart for India. Oil imports are rising, and this needs to be checked.
While India has announced that it is walking the talk, the government certainly needs to do more by giving a generous boost to alternative modes of energy generation. The dependence on fossil fuels must be reduced. Countries like Pakistan and Guatemala have vowed to plant more than 11 billion trees in September 2019 Climate Action summit at New York, which preceded the COP25 consultations. There is a mounting pressure on big polluters like India, Saudi Arabia, United States and China to deliver on their commitments in carbon emissions.
The United States, at the direction of Donald Trump, is already under the process of withdrawing from the Paris Accord, which set a goal of limiting global temperature rises to well within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels. Instead, the US has just sent a diplomatic team and a delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to shore up support for its stated concern on climate change. This is a setback for the international community.
On the other hand, Chinese representative in a rare press conference dodged questions over whether it would change its climate action plan next year. The UN Secretary-General noticeably remarked at the beginning of COP25 deliberations that “Without the full engagement of the big emitters all our efforts will be completely undermined”. Further, he appealed that we should ensure that at least $100 billion US dollars a year are available to the developing countries for mitigation of climate change effects and to help them build resilient systems for disaster response and recovery.
The writing on the wall is very clear: nations big and small cannot look away from their commitments, as everyone enjoys planet earth and its resources. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement has remained a bone of contention. Paris Agreement (an agreement under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC) basically provided a framework where nations had to come up with NDC’s (Nationally Determined Contributions) on the commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
The parties are under a legal obligation to NDCs and take measures to implement them. Binding nature of NDCs has to be achieved through a global transparency mechanism. Additionally, a global stocktake is taken every five years to determine whether the international community is on the path to achieving the target of ensuring 1.5 degrees C of containing global heating. African nations have complained that Article 6 doesn’t include rules to protect the native forest.
This leaves out underdeveloped nations out of the dialogue process altogether. Lack of accountability at the stage of determining whether a country has actually achieved NDCs or not is, in reality, leading us towards uncertain times. The writing on the wall is, Save the planet right now! It is time that nations built upon a consensus on their specific roles and responsibilities. Big polluters must run the gauntlet and come out strongly to reverse the climate change process.