New Delhi: On Sunday, 197 countries will initiate negotiations in the coastal city of Sharm-el Sheikh in Egypt to mark the beginning of the annual United Nations climate change conference (COP27). The agenda — how to abate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
This year’s COP is being touted as one that would revolve largely around the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Paris Agreement is a pact signed in 2015 to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5 degrees, above pre-industrial levels. Scientists have said crossing the 1.5 degrees threshold will cause the effects of climate change to worsen considerably, narrowing the scope to adjust to rising temperatures.
Alok Sharma, president of the COP26, had said last year that a consensus was reached on keeping the 1.5 degrees goal alive, but that “its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action”.
A spate of reports in the run-up to the COP27 suggest current policies and pledges, including those made at the COP26, will lead the world towards at least 2.4 degrees of warming, at which point the world will become substantially unlivable. The COP27’s mandate to implement the Paris Agreement gains urgency in light of these reports, as countries race against time to ensure adequate reduction in emissions.
Here are some of the key issues that are expected to take centre stage at the COP27.
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Loss & Damage, Santiago Network
In the context of global warming, ‘loss and damage’ refers to what happens when communities and ecosystems can no longer adapt to the effects of climate change.
Developing countries have repeatedly demanded the creation of a ‘loss and damage’ finance facility — a type of fund through which developing countries would be repatriated for the unavoidable destruction resulting from climate change. The concept was first proposed by the island state of Vanuatu in the 1990s, but started to gain momentum only after 2007.
The G77 group of countries, along with China, have now requested that this facility be included in the official agenda of the COP27. The group is chaired by Pakistan this year, which saw devastating floods earlier this year.
“The issue of loss and damage could be the litmus test for this COP in terms of the mobilisation and energisation of the developing world. This time, it has been brought back into the agenda, but the first thing to watch out for is if it survives the first few days of the agenda battle,” said Navroz Dubash, a professor at Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR).
At the COP26, developed countries had blocked proposals backing a loss and damage finance facility.
Developing countries are also expecting progress on the operationalisation of the Santiago Network — a platform set up in 2019 by the UN to provide member states with technical assistance and capacity-building in the face of climate-related destruction.
Climate finance for adaptation & mitigation
Deliberation on climate finance at the COP27 will be three-pronged: Discussions on the definition of climate finance, distribution of current finance commitments, and the shape of a new climate finance goal.
Climate finance refers to public or private financing drawn from various sources to support climate mitigation and adaptation activities.
In 2009, during the COP15, developed countries had pledged to deliver USD 100 billion in climate finance by 2020, and every year thereafter till 2025. But it was revealed last year, ahead of COP26, that developed countries are unlikely to meet this goal before 2023.
Developing countries have also taken issue with the fact that a majority of climate finance goes towards mitigation – activities focussed on reduction of emissions — as opposed to adaptation activities, which are actions that help societies and ecosystems adjust to climate change.
According to the latest projections, only about 34 per cent of climate finance raised goes towards adaptation.
At the COP26, developed countries pledged to double their contributions to adaptation finance. Some developed countries even made commitments to the Adaptation Fund (AF), many of which remain unfulfilled.
A new climate goal will take the place of the USD 100 billion target, when it lapses in 2025. This goal, called the ‘New Collective Quantified Goal on climate finance’ (NCQG), will utilise the USD 100 billion as a floor and propose a quantity “taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries”.
At the COP26, India, along with other developing countries, demanded that developed countries pay “at least” USD 1.3 trillion in climate finance from 2025 onwards. Last year, a UN Committee found that developing countries would need at least USD 5.8 trillion by 2030 to deliver on 40 per cent of their climate-related pledges.
Global Goal on Adaptation & Mitigation Work Programme
Net-zero pledges and the target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees are examples of mitigation activities focussed on reducing emissions. During talks for the Paris Agreement, it was agreed that the world also needs a collective goal for adaptation activities, called the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA).
The GGA is aimed at building adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change. At the COP27, countries will deliberate on what this goal should look like and how it can be implemented.
Developed countries are also pushing for developing countries to widen their mitigation ambitions, through what is called a ‘Mitigation Work Programme’.
The more that is done to mitigate climate change, the less will need to be spent on losses and damages, said a UN report published on 1 November.
Developing countries are likely to push back on this demand, citing the common but differentiated responsibilities of dealing with climate change — a principle enshrined in the UNFCCC, recognising that all countries are not equally responsible for global warming.
Aarti Khosla, founder and director of climate consulting firm Climate Trends, told ThePrint: “Developed countries need to step up and provide adequate mitigation and adaptation finance for developing countries to achieve those goals, but as it stands, there isn’t enough at the moment. This is likely to be a key point of negotiation through the talks this year.”
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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