THE IPCC A6 Synthesis Report, which draws together the scientific body’s work over the past eight years, stresses that even under a very low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions scenario, global warming is likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, increasing the risk of food insecurity, extreme weather and conflict. At current warming levels, communities are already experiencing landslides, flash floods, storm surges, wildfires, droughts and the drying up of springs among other disruptions caused by climate change.
The conversations and meetings this year leading up to COP28 so far have not injected new hope for either a fair or safe world. From the Bonn talks in May to the UNGA Climate Summit in September, the emphasis has remained on the need to do more, without any concrete action to achieve the elusive target of decarbonising the economy through deep, rapid and immediate cuts in emissions.
Environmental ministers from G20 nations, representing countries that account for 80pc of GHG emissions failed to agree on ways to curb emissions and address other crucial matters at the Delhi Summit. The lack of consensus after a year filled with climate-induced disasters and repeated calls for action sends a strong signal of what to expect from the critical COP negotiations.
The second meeting of the High-level Political Forum under the auspices of the UNGA of the recently concluded SDG Summit marks the midpoint of the goals set for 2030. The mismatch between actions and transformative shifts needed to avert the climate crisis and absence of some of the big emitters does not lend hope of any momentum in the accelerator agenda. The SDG theme of peace and security for the year has failed to reignite optimism, deepening misgivings about multilateral processes and fair outcomes.
The SDG theme of peace and security has failed to reignite optimism.
The recently published first global stocktake synthesis report, which is a culmination of two years of data collection from scientists, technocrats and business people, recognises the role of the Paris Agreement in driving near-universal climate actions, but falls short of projecting the grim reality. It urges the need for prioritising the phasing out of fossil fuels and working with all levels of government to scale up tried and tested solutions while investing in new, innovative technologies.
All eyes will now be on Dubai to see how the presidency leverages the stocktake to course correct and transition to a safer trajectory with a rapid response plan. As always, finance will dominate the negotiations, and the issues of drastic cuts in emission, doubling adaptation finance and operationalising the loss and damage fund alongside the need for reform in the global financial architecture will be key determinants in setting the future agenda.
So far, all the climate reports have one thing in common. All serve as a wake-up call for moving past statements, advisories and prose that use climate as a glossary to list thematic areas or highlight threats that are already being experienced by people, but fail to provide timely solutions.
The pivot shift from Paris to Dubai comes at a time when much has changed since the 2015 Paris Agreement. The need for keeping temperatures below 1.5ºC, capping peak emissions by 2025, reducing GHGs by 2030 to stay within the safe threshold of planetary boundaries, higher costs for mitigation and adaptation, the war in Ukraine and the changing geopolitical landscape are all new elements that have added greater urgency to finding solutions.
While the cost of making transformative changes may be high, the price of inaction will come with a greater cost to human life, plunging millions into poverty and deepening inequality.
The stocktake 2023 is not merely about assessing where countries stand on Nationally Determined Contributions, it is also about using current trends to anticipate threats to human security and making a call on how we see humanity. If all lives matter, then negotiators need to redefine the battle lines and engage with the intent of de-risking climate security. This will require all countries to engage on climate at the international and regional level, putting other differences and disputes aside and working together with a single-point agenda that pivots around human security.
It is time to move beyond power, politics, policy and profit to look at the human angle of the unfolding tragedy and remember the moral compact that served as the backbone of the Paris Agreement to bring parties together. With the clock ticking, it is time to cut to the chase and decide if all lives are equal or other considerations play a role in the human security calculus. The bar on expectation is diminishing fast, pushing some nations closer to the edge. It is time for an honest reset.
The writer is chief executive of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2023