100 days before COP26: We need to see transformative solutions this November
100 days from now, the central point of climate politics will be Glasgow as the UK hosts the 26th Conference of Parties or COP26 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. These negotiations are the most important climate talks on the climate emergency since COP21 in Paris in 2015, when almost every nation on earth signed a legally binding treaty called the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.
The meeting in Glasgow is the first meeting for stock-taking of the commitments in Paris is achieving that goal. Many see COP26 as our last, best chance to prevent global temperatures from spiralling out of control.
Unfortunately, we are not yet on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the threshold that scientists agree will prevent the most dangerous climate impacts. Failure to reach this goal will take a disproportionate toll on developing countries. In fact, we now have less than a decade to keep global warming to that level. As we see now at 1.2°C global average since the industrial revolution, which started in England in the 18th Century, climate change is affecting everybody. We have recently seen the devastating floods that affected Germany and Belgium, the heatwave in Canada and the US, as well as floods in India and elsewhere.
However, vulnerable nations that have been experiencing such climate-induced catastrophe for decades now, have watched their key demands and needs ignored by huge and historically-emitting nations in the negotiations. These vulnerable nations, small island developing states and least developed countries are the least responsible for creating the climate change problem. But they are often the most affected by its impacts like sea level rise, floods, droughts and more.
What do we need to see this November?
- More ambitious commitments to reduce emissions, especially from big and historic polluters. The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by countries in 2015 in the Paris Agreement will take us to at least 3°C, which would mean death and increased poverty for many people in the global south and extinction of many plants and animal species globally. The UK, US and other high-income and highly industrialised countries should make more appropriate commitments as part of their fair-share responsibility.
According to more than 100 developing countries, the UK should commit to a 70% emissions cut by 2030 plus $46bn a year in climate finance. The UK is the world’s sixth highest historic emitter since 1850 and the world’s fifth wealthiest country with wealth accumulated from global fossil fuel extraction and colonialism. Consequently, leading climate campaigners argue that the UK must reduce its domestic and overseas greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 200% by 2030 as a just ‘fair share’. This means the UK must decarbonise its economy as soon as possible (100%) and the other 100% would be contribution to a climate finance.
- ‘Net zero’ targets need to be transformed into Real Zero targets, including a phase-out of fossil fuels through Just Transition based on principles of climate justice, equity, and support for rights for communities. The UK government as host of the summit should set an example by ensuring it will stop funding fossil fuels at home and abroad.
- Wealthier nations are failing in fulfilling their climate finance commitments to enable developing countries cope with climate impacts and to do the work of reducing or avoiding emissions. They must now deliver the $100-billion-a-year (£73bn) target they pledged in the Copenhagen Accord at COP15 to provide for developing countries, which was supposed to happen by 2020.
- It will be very difficult for vulnerable countries to adapt to Loss and Damage due to climate impacts. These are existential threats for countries facing rising sea levels and increasingly severe weather events, forced migration, and loss of productive agricultural land. Rich countries are rejecting the principle of reparations. We need to see the negotiations on Loss and Damage moving progressively and positively for vulnerable countries.
- If we want just transition to be a reality, we must challenge the continuing dominant role of transnational corporations and the systems of power that have allowed for the continued exploitation of resources, which have caused immeasurable ill-effects to poor communities and people for centuries. The same system has allowed fossil fuels to influence key meetings of global leaders, including the COPs. Fossil fuel corporations must be kick-out of COP26 and not allowed to use their ’net-zero’ programs as an excuse.
Outside the climate negotiation process, but with impacts that undermine climate actions, are global trade rules and processes. These include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms or corporate courts in trade treaties and the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). With these agreements, governments that phase out coal, end gas production, or stop oil pipelines can be sued by corporations in private courts and be held liable for billions in damages. This means coal, oil and gas corporations can obstruct necessary government climate actions to address the climate emergency and just transition to a clean energy system.
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