Let’s stand up to the climate challenge

Let’s stand up to the climate challenge

Global Living infographic courtesy

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as Conference of the Parties, unfolded in Egypt Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement, in which he said “We must close the emissions gap before climate catastrophe closes in on us all.”

The 73-year-old Guterres from Portugal said the 13-day summit focuses on Sustainable Development Goal 13 (climate action), as world leaders gather in Egypt for the UN Climate Change Conference.

The COP27 summit, which ends on November 18 in Sharm El-Sheikh, seeks solidarity and action on an array of issues critical to tackling the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions to building resilience, and delivering the necessary financing for developing countries.

Guterres said “Every government, every business, every investor, every institution must step up with concrete climate actions for net zero,” adding “On every climate front, the only solution is decisive action in solidarity.”

Climate experts say the temperature has risen 1.1ºC above the pre-industrial level, with glaciers melting and the sea level rising. It affects us all.

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC estimates that 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people live in contexts highly vulnerable to climate change.

These hotspots are concentrated in small island developing States, the Arctic, Southern Asia, Central and South America, and much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Experts are saying that by 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of displacement by drought alone.

Achieving Goal 13 is therefore imperative to save lives and livelihoods, and is key to making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the blueprint for a better future – a reality.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin indicates that atmospheric levels of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – all reached record highs in 2021.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 149 percent of the pre-industrial level in 2021, primarily because of emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and cement production.

The annual increases in atmospheric methane concentration in 2020 and 2021 are the largest since the systematic record began in 1983, according to experts.

The emissions Gap Report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) finds that policies currently in place point to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

Implementation of the current pledges will only reduce this to a 2.4-2.6°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

“Commitments to net zero are worth zero without the plans, policies, and actions to back it up,” stressed the UN Secretary-General. “We must close the emissions gap before climate catastrophe closes in on us all.”

COP27 marks 30 years since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted and seven years since the Paris Agreement was agreed upon at COP21.

An annual event, COP brings together the governments which have signed the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, or the Paris Agreement.

World leaders, ministers, and negotiators are now in Egypt to agree on how to jointly address climate change and its impacts.

Civil society, businesses, international organizations, and the media ‘observe’ proceedings to bring transparency, as well as broader perspectives, to the process.

With the strapline, ‘Together for implementation,’ COP27 will be an African COP, and the first of two COPS in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

COP26 in 2021 was jointly hosted in Glasgow, Scotland by the UK and Italy, who continue to hold the COP presidency until COP27 begins. COP28 will be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2023.

What are the key issues under discussion?

Ruth Townend, Research Fellow-Climate Risk and Diplomacy, Environment and Society Program at Chatham House. Chatham HouseUniversity of Cambridge. Stretford, England, says since 2015, under the legally-binding Paris Agreement treaty, almost all countries in the world have committed to:

Keep the rise in global average temperature to ‘well below’ 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels.

Strengthen the ability to adapt to climate change and build resilience.

Align finance flows with ‘a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development’.

The Paris Agreement has a ‘bottom-up’ approach where individual countries decide what action they will take.

For mitigation (limiting the extent to which the climate changes) countries communicate their emissions reduction targets, and how these will be achieved, in ‘nationally determined contributions,’ or ‘NDCs.’ Current NDCs cover action to 2030, and ambition should be raised every five years under the Paris ‘ratchet mechanism.’

For adaptation (adjusting to current and future climate change impacts) the equivalent of the mitigation ‘NDC’ is the National Adaptation Plan (NAP), detailing approaches to reduce vulnerability, build capacity to adapt and resilience, and integrate climate adaptation into policies and planning at a national level.

Under the Paris Agreement, NAPs are to be submitted and updated ‘periodically.’ There is no formal five-year ratchet’ mechanism for adaptation.

We hope to be able to discuss the issues in the subsequent episodes. (ai/mtvn)

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