The unprecedented increase in climate-related disasters has led more than 13,000 scientists from 153 countries to sign a declaration of climate emergency, according to an article published in September 2021 in a leading biological science journal. The call for such severe action as the declaration of a climate emergency is justified by the Sixth Assessment report (AR6) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the climatology organization of United Nations (UN) which produces a climate report every seven years or so. The report has been described by British newspaper “The Guardian” as “its most blunt warning yet” of “major climate change that is inevitable and irreversible”. Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general called the report “a code red for humanity”. The alarm bells are deaf, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people in immediate danger ”. The importance and urgency of addressing climate change is also reflected in 2021. Nobel Prize in Physics which has been awarded to three scientists — Syukuro Manabe from Japan, Klaus Hasselmann from Germany and Giorgio Parasi from Italy— which laid the foundation for current climate models to understand climate change and warned against climate change disasters Climate Change-related disasters include rising sea levels, increasing global warming, arctic melting, devastating floods and cyclones, record heat waves and forest fires. These disasters are believed to be caused by uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG)—- Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide which, in the earth’s atmosphere, prevent heat from escaping. This is called the greenhouse effect. These gases keep the Earth warm. The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas alter the natural greenhouse effect. These changes cause the atmosphere to trap more heat than before, leading to warming of the Earth. The increase in global average Earth’s surface temperature in 2020 was 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Climate change is real and has been unequivocally brought about by human activities, largely the release of polluting gases from the burning of fossil fuels. The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 reaffirms the goal of limiting the increase in global temperature to well below 02, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. To prevent warming beyond 1.5 ° C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% each year until 2030. According to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)2021 published on August 09, 2021, the global warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius could be exceeded by 2040. This is because the countries that have been signatories to the Paris Agreement have not kept their promises . The call for a declaration of climate emergency by a large number of scientists in September 2021 is gaining importance as the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled from October 31 to November 12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. The COP, the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC, has 197 member countries. Each year, a meeting of member countries is organized, known as the Conference of the Parties (COP).
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What challenges do developing countries face in achieving the goal of net zero emissions by 2050?
When the world does not add new emissions to the atmosphere, it is called “net emissions”. The United Nations has set a target of halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 to meet the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius . The extreme and persistent adverse effects of global climate change have posed a serious threat to both the biosphere and to humanity. But the devastation caused by climate change is greater and more pronounced in developing countries and they are least able to bear the consequences. Multiple factors are responsible for their vulnerability to climate change which can limit their ability to prevent and respond to the devastation caused by it. In 2009, at the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change in Copenhagen, a financial commitment of $ 100 billion per year by 2020 was made by developed countries to help developing countries reduce emissions of gas. greenhouse effect, build resilience to climate impacts and achieve the goal of zero carbon in the future. This target of 100 billion dollars was to be raised before 2025. The modalities of financing from a wide variety of sources – public and private, bilateral and multilateral, and from alternative sources of financing are ill-defined. The proportions of funding from public and private sources are not specified, nor is it clear how different financial instruments such as grants and loans should be counted. They have such serious flaws that developed countries exploit them to their advantage. For example, the bulk of climate finance provided by developed countries to developing countries consists of loans, not grants. Loans must be repaid, with interest. There is no agreed system for measuring the amount of climate change finance provided by developed countries to developing countries. Regarding the commitment to mobilize US $ 100, the fact remains that it was not met. in his “Remarks to the pre-Cop26” on September 30, 2021 in Italy, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developed countries were slow to commit to providing US $ 100 billion a year in funding climate for poor countries by 2020.
India, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China, is also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As part of its commitment to Paris Agreement, India plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 level by 2030.
It is a known fact that climate change is largely due to the historic emissions of rich developed countries over a long period of a century and a half. Many developing and underdeveloped countries were colonies of rich, developed countries. The colonies contributed significantly to their wealth which enabled them to design and develop technologies which in turn helped them achieve the industrial revolution. The industries mainly obtained the raw material from the colonized countries and sold them the finished products. This has added disproportionately to the wealth of developed countries. After gaining independence, the settlers continued to derive energy from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to support their economy. But unfortunately, burning fossil fuels has turned out to contribute to climate change. The UN continues to urge them to reduce the use of fossil fuels and switch to renewable energies. But it is simply not possible for them to quickly switch from fossil fuels to renewables due to financial constraints and lack of technology. At the same time, it is not possible for developed countries to tackle climate change and make the transition to a cleaner, greener future without 152 developing countries representing some 6.5 billion people.
The bottom line is that developed countries have a moral responsibility to review the US $ 100 billion a year commitment to climate finance and increase finance to a sizable level. Given the gravity of the problem of climate change, it is inevitable to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gases. emissions, building resilience to climate impacts so that they meet the goal of net zero carbon and ensure human security in the future. All the loopholes, ambiguities and pitfalls of engagement mentioned above must be eliminated. Recently, India stressed that the goal of achieving zero net emissions by 2050 should be based on the principle of equity.
Hopefully, the COP26 at the UNFCCC scheduled for October-November 2021 in Glosgow would witness significant new commitments to the global climate change agenda.
Dr Aqueel Khan,
Former teacher and director,
Postgraduate University Education Department of Biochemistry,
RTM Nagpur University,
E-mail: [email protected]