The Financial Express

Climate summit COP 25 Madrid: What next?

Activists protest outside the venue of the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid last year           — Reuters Activists protest outside the venue of the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid last year           — Reuters

The annual UN climate talks (Conference of the Parties, COP 25) closed in disappointment on  December 15, 2019 in Madrid after two weeks of lengthy discussions. Countries failed to agree on most of the issues including rules to set up a global carbon trading system. About 27,000 delegates attending the conference failed to finalise the "Rule Book", the operating manual which will be required to make the Paris Agreement effective from 2020 under its "Article 6". Since consensus could not be reached, member states pushed the decisions into the next Conference under "Rule 16" of the UN Climate process. The plenary sessions, press conferences, high level segment meetings, side events etc., made COP 25 quite a lively event. Environmental activists and global NGO/CSO representatives organised demonstrations inside and outside the conference venue against failure of the industrialised nations to protect Mother Earth from global warming. The relatively weak Chilean COP Presidency failed to firmly anchor the three Central Paris Agreement objectives: temperature target of 1.5 degree celsius to 2 degree celsius, resilience building, and redirection of financial flows.

Bangladesh delegation to COP 25 led by the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Changes presented the Planetary Emergency motion which was adopted in our Jatiya Sangsad on November 13, 2019 consequent upon the adoption of Climate Emergency by the UN in its 72nd anniversary.  Bangladesh played a key role during the Plenary and the sessions on finance, loss and damage, adaptation, mitigation etc. While developing and the least developed countries were urging for urgent funds and technology transfer for addressing the climate change phenomena (cyclone, flood, salinity etc.), the developed nations were emphasising the so-called efficient use of funds, technological innovations, involvement of private sector, transparency of transactions etc. BRAC and few other Bangladeshi NGOs organised various events in our Pavillion. Bangladesh demanded early settlement of the Article 6 issue and separate financial mechanism to address Loss and Damage (L&D) beyond adaptation. Being a world leader in Climate Change adaptation, the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) has been sponsored by Bangladesh and other countries with the BRAC International Executive Director Muhammad Musa as one of its Commissioners.

Various countries and blocks had diversified interests and priorities in COP 25. For the AOSIS (Association of Small Islands States), overall mitigation of Article 6 was a high priority, while for the LMDCs (Like Minded Developing Countries), the Pre-2020 work Programme of Ambition was a priority. Adaptation was priority for LMDCs; Article 6 (share of proceeds under 6.2) was the priority of LMDCs and G77+ China group. Overall mitigation of Article 6 was opposed by the EU and USA while Brazil opposed REDD+ inclusion in Article 6. Loss and Damage and full Kyoto transition under Article 6 were red lined by the EU. Emerging industrial nations also defended continuation of their economic activities for national interest.

Climate change impacts are becoming more evident with frequent and more extreme hurricanes/typhoons, floods, devastating wildfires and record temperatures in the Artic. Global demonstrations and movements like Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg's worldwide school strikes etc., could hardly draw attention of the mighty polluters. Canada withdrew from Kyoto treaty in 2011. The United States dropped out of Kyoto Protocol in 2001. BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) seem reluctant to significantly reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emission on the pretext that their industrial productions will be hampered. The UN Environment Programme reveals that limiting global warming to the 1.5 degree Celsius higher than pre-industrial level requires a cut in GHG emissions of 7.6 percent each year from 2020 to 2030. Such bold targets will require deep and rapid decarbonisation.

At the UN Secretary General's Special Summit in September 2019, only the developing countries had so far pledged to enhance their NDCs in 2020. The Climate Ambition Coalition of 120 countries announced in COP 25 that they will be GHG neutral by 2050; 80 countries have announced that they "intend" to tighten climate targets called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for 2030; 11 countries have "initiated" NDC enhancement process. EU's decision on GHG neutrality by 2050 enabled the establishment of European Green Deal Framework. On the last day of COP 25 negotiations, the High Ambition Coalition (UK, Germany, France, Canada, European Commission etc) called for more ambition from all countries. The "San Jose Principles" initiated by Costa Rica, was joined by 30 countries including 17 EU member states. They proposed a robust set of rules for GHG reductions. An important step regarding loss and damage under Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) was the withdrawal of 10-year old blockade by the industrialised countries to discuss L&D under UNFCC financial structure. USA has started withdrawal process from the Paris Agreement and any future US government is unlikely to re-enter it because of the risk of unlimited compensation under the L&D mechanism.

COP 26 which was scheduled to be held in Glasgow, UK in November 2020 has been rescheduled to November 2021 by the UNFCCC. Nations were due to submit their new or updated national climate plans, the NDCs. 195 countries had agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures "well below" 2 degree celsius above the pre-industrial times and "endeavour to limit" them to 1.5 degree celsius. While many industrialised nations are yet to adopt concrete steps in this direction, few other countries are paying little heed to the scientific evidences of deteriorating GHG emission situation. The industrialised nations' commitment to pay US$ 100 billion a year by 2020 to the developing countries has not been implemented. In addition to the power utilities and fossil fuel producers, the agriculture, transportation and consumer goods producers also need to reduce GHG emission under the new initiatives like Climate Action 100 +, Science Based Target (SBT) etc. Guidelines and Rule Books under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement will have to be finalised in the next COP 26. Some developed countries are even reluctant to be held responsible for climate-related damages and oppose the payment of compensation to the poor countries under "loss and damage" mechanism. Under the SBT, 686 of the world's largest companies have agreed in principle to reduce carbon emissions. CEOs of 75 American Companies as well as the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) representing 12.5 million workers have requested the US government not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Countries that have "committed" or "intend" to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 now account for some two-fifths of global GDP.

The EU-China Summit due in Leipzig in September 2020 will have to confirm their commitment to 50-50 per cent GHG reduction by 2030. Global Stocktaking in 2030 will monitor progress of such reductions. International pressure from the "Fridays 4 Future" (Unite behind the Science) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for science based evidence is now acknowledged by most countries in spite of resistance from Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia etc. A newly formed "Santiago Network" commits to lead more campaign to realise loss and damage. The vague mandate for use of Green Climate Fund for loss and damage purposes needs to be rectified. The polarisation between the fossil resistance fighters and the progressives as manifested in COP 25 will presumably intensify under the Saudi G20 Presidency and the American G7 Presidency. In view of those intricacies, intensive climate diplomacy needs to be pursued by Bangladesh to coordinate among different stakeholders, global groups, UN Climate Secretariat etc., to mobilise support for our adaptation and L&D moves. We have to intensify our internal preparations for COP 26 in view of the fact that major reshuffle has been made recently in the top bureaucracy of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Changes. Climate experts who have been attending COP meetings and contributing significantly for the last few years can help towards our official preparations. Intricate climate negotiations must be appropriately handled by Bangladesh at COP 26 next year to protect our interest.

Md. Abdul Karim  is a former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.


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