COP26 AFP-1634477601237
Street artists paint a mural on a wall opposite the COP26 climate summit venue in Glasgow on October 13, 2021 Image Credit: AFP

In partnership with Italy, the UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from October 31, 2021 to November 12, 2021. Due to Covid-19, the COP26, originally scheduled to take place in November 2020, will occur a year later.

The conference got an extra year for preparation and negotiation, but the COP26 will likely fail like the COP25 in Madrid (2019). Antigovernment protests in Chile had forced to shift the venue to Spain in 2019.

COP25 had failed to make any progress in providing a concrete shape to ambitions expressed and committed to by the member states in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Despite the EU’s commitment to becoming the net-zero carbon emission region by 2050, countries had failed to positively review and reaffirm their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to deliver on their promises of providing ‘Financial Support Mechanism’ for their stated ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C.

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The key contention in the Madrid COP was Article 6 of the Paris Agreement that deals with international carbon trading between nations. Countries disagree on carbon trading rules, prevent double-counting of emission reduction units by both buying and selling parties, and whether to put a levy on the proceeds from the carbon trading to support climate adaptation schemes in developing countries.

Five out of the last seven COPs have failed to reach a consensus on the rules governing carbon trading, and this trend is likely to continue and adversely affect the outcome of the COP26 at Glasgow.

China is yet to confirm if President Xi Jinping will be travelling to Glasgow, which brings down the hope of the world from the COP26

The COP25 had not delivered much, nor is the COP26 going to address anything substantial to address the threats of climate change. They will keep discussing, debating, and differing over the rules and regulations of not-so-significant carbon trading.

At the same time, the more than two weeks of climate jamboree at Glasgow will bring together more than 25,000 delegates, and their travel and stay will further contribute to global warming by adding carbon emissions.

The US is trying hard to keep its polluting industries protected from any liability or paying compensation. Brazil, China, India, and South Africa ask for carry-over of unsold carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol to the proposed carbon market scheme. Countries had pledged since 2009 to mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020.

Considerable scepticism

In November 2020, the OECD countries released a report that stated that climate finance had reached $78.9 billion by 2018. However, there is considerable scepticism about this number as there is no stipulated rule that says what should term any finance as climate finance.

While the world has spent almost $2 trillion on the military in 2020 alone, it is still reluctant to commit $100 billion annually to save the planet, whose survival is under serious threat from climate change.

To put the amount of $100 billion in perspective, only one entrepreneur, Elon Musk’s personal wealth, has increased $192 billion in just over a year, from $30 billion in April 2020 to $222 billion in October 2021. Thus, it is not the money for climate finance in short supply, but the willingness and commitment of the rich nations are.

The Paris Agreement binds the signing countries to contain global warming to ‘well below’ 2C above pre-industrial level, with an aspirational limit of 1.5C. However, the commitments made for cutting emissions at Paris were too weak to reach that target, so there was an agreement among parties to return every five years with a revised NDC.

There are 197 Parties to the Convention, but 191 Parties to the Paris Agreement. However, there are only 113 first NDCs recorded in the UN’s interim NDC registry, and the total number of second NDCs is merely 11.

Code Red for humanity

To limit the rise of global warming to 1.5C, the planet needs a 45% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, but the countries’ commitments made under the NDCs will instead result in an increase of 16% in 2030 compared to the 2010 level.

As the UN Climate Panel (IPCC) report, released in August 2021, suggests, climate change is already widespread, rapid, and intensifying. The UN Secretary General has termed the urgency as “a code red for humanity” and urged the world to act decisively to keep the hope of limiting global warming to 1.5C alive. For that, the G20 economies need to join the net-zero emissions coalition and provide credible, concrete and enhanced NDCs before the COP26 in Glasgow.

However, till now, only a few major emitters like the EU, UK, and US have submitted their second NDCs with more cuts than what they had proposed in Paris in 2015. But countries like Australia, Brazil, China, India, Russia among others have not yet.

The world can’t wage a successful battle against climate change if it fails to come together; particularly, active cooperation and coordination between the two largest emitters US and China, is a must.

Unfortunately, there is serious doubt if the US and China can join hands to make anything meaningful out of the COP26 in Glasgow.

The relationship between the two superpowers has reached a low as the Biden administration has prioritised its military alliance AUKUS with UK and Australia than focusing on working together with China to build a global coalition against climate change.

China is yet to confirm if President Xi Jinping will be travelling to Glasgow, which brings down the hope of the world from the COP26.

When will the world leaders realise that the planet’s survival needs to be the priority, not their politics?

Queen Elizabeth II aptly sums up the global frustration as she was quoted saying in Cardiff last week: “It’s very irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.”