Conference of Parties (COP) - 26 IAS Target

Conference of Parties (COP) - 26

16 Nov 2021

Category : Environmental Issue

Topic: Conference of Parties (COP) - 26

The 26th UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow is planned to begin on October 31. Major preparatory conferences and bilateral conversations have been held to encourage nations to improve their carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
However, many high-emitter countries will fall well short of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to keep global warming "far below 2C. The latest buzz, however, is about achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Mirage of a net zero the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), released in August 2021, was met with shock and awe in Indian and international media reporting and debate, but the illuminating scientific facts were skimmed over. Rather than focusing entirely on net zero, AR6 recommends a 45 percent reduction in world emissions by 2030, with net zero by 2050. Importantly, the UNFCCC's core idea of shared but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) has been forgotten in the net zero drumbeats sparked by the US and the UN Secretary General.
Developed countries, which are responsible for more than 75% of the accumulated atmospheric GHGs that cause climate change, should bear the brunt of the burden of lowering emissions, while poor countries should do what they can with the former's technological and financial aid. According to CBDR, developed countries should reach net zero by 2035-40, whilst poor countries can do so later. The current proposal for net zero 2050 is, at best, a diversionary message, and at worst, a purposeful diversion of attention away from the urgent 2030 target that COP26 should be focusing on.
The net zero 2050 target is no silver bullet, according to data from the UNFCCC Synthesis Report on updated NDCs, which was released in September 2021. 2030's key objectives 131 of the 194 parties had updated their NDCs by the end of July 2021. Even after accounting for these, the UN NDC report estimates that global emissions in 2030 will be 16.3% higher than in 2010, yet the IPCC has called for emissions to be 45 percent lower in 2030 than in 2010, in order to attain the 1.5C goal. As a result, the research recommends "a major rise in the level of ambition of NDCs through 2030." By 2030, the United Kingdom and the European Union have increased their ambitions to 68 percent and 55 percent, respectively, from 1990 levels. Even as US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry travels the globe urging other countries to decrease emissions even more, the United States remains behind. The US has now committed to net zero emissions by 2050, compared to an earlier target of an 80% reduction. Furthermore, according to the Biden administration, emissions will be cut by 5052 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Given that the US is the world's second-largest emitter, and the 2005 baseline places it far behind the EU, the United Kingdom, and others who adopt the Kyoto 1990 baseline, this is tragically inadequate.
Russia, Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro, which is destroying the Amazon forests, and China, the world's largest emitter, whose relentless push to add maximum infrastructure, industrial, and power-generation capacities before peaking in 2030 may use up much of the cumulative global emissions available for 1.5C. Carbon budgets are estimates of how much CO2 the atmosphere can contain at a particular global temperature, based on cumulative emissions rather than annual flows. According to the updated NDCs report, "cumulative CO2 emissions in 20202030 based on the newest NDCs would likely consume up 89 percent of the remaining carbon budget, leaving a post-2030 carbon budget of roughly 55 Gt CO2, which is similar to the average yearly CO2 emissions in 20202030."
Although negotiators and analysts are accustomed to working with annual flows, projections based on carbon budgets should be used in Glasgow, if only to assess the flow-based agreements that have been reached. "But limiting global temperature increase to a specified level would require limiting cumulative CO2 emissions to within a carbon budget," according to the NDC report. To restate, COP26 should place a strong emphasis on cutting emissions until 2030, rather than aiming for net zero by 2050, which is too far away and might be gamed. If COP26 does not focus on reaching the 45 percent reduction in emissions from 2010 levels required by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5C, the world may have squandered one of its final chances to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.
Africa, LDCs, Small Island States, and others will definitely exert pressure, but will this be enough to tip the scales in favour of the dominant status quo? Some time ago, it was proposed that the COP ensure that Parties incrementally increase their commitments until they reach the required 45 percent reduction by 2030.
Despite emitting 7% of global emissions and having significantly lower per-capita emissions than the global average, it is the world's third largest emitter. So far, India has refused to increase its Paris Agreement emission reduction commitments. It has not yet filed its updated NDC, and it may face opposition in Glasgow, notably from LDCs and the world's most vulnerable countries, who may feel threatened even as wealthier nations argue.
According to the well-known website Climate Tracker, India is now in the second worst group of countries in terms of meeting global 1.5C goals, down from the top category for 2C just after the Paris Agreement. India may easily increase its NDC goal of reducing Emissions Intensity from 33-35 percent in 2005 to 38-40 percent in 2030. India's own NDC claims that the country has been cutting EI by about 2% every year on average. Invoking CBDR and comparing China's 2060 pledge favourably, India may suggest achieving net zero by 2070-75. An estimate of 2040-45 may not be far off the mark, especially if forest and tree cover expansion is expedited rather than weakened. Adding green hydrogen or growing electric vehicles to India's ambitions of installing 450GW of renewable electricity by 2030 may necessitate more research than has been done so far. Will India have the audacity to use these offers to pressure the United States and other developed-country laggards to increase their commitments and activities toward the 2030 objective without sacrificing promises of financial aid? Only time will tell, and the world has very little of it left.