The UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) began on December 03 at Katowice, Poland. It is scheduled to continue till December 14. This conference is an important bridge between the Paris conference (COP21) and another to be held in 2020, when all the signatory countries would need to revise their climate commitments upwards.
There was a lot of expectation for actions following the Paris conference. In reality, no significant achievements were made during this period.
So, what can be expected from COP24?
As the world leaders have said at the conference, dealing with climate change is the world's biggest challenge right now for the future survival of mankind. Frequencies of different natural disasters and catastrophic events like floods, cyclones, wildfires, heavy rainfall, extreme cold or warm temperature etc. are increasing across the globe. Numerous initiatives taken to minimise global temperature and reduce climate change consequences are not having an impact. This is leading to more deaths, increasing financial losses in damaged crops, houses and properties and causing displacement of population, with every passing year.
There is still a glimmer of hope from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which estimated in its recent report that it is still possible to maintain an under 1.5°C of global temperature increase till 2100.
Additionally, many development banks have claimed that they are bringing about changes to their dimensions of investing in projects. For example, the World Bank has set an objective to support 28 per cent of projects, aimed at ensuring climate co-benefits by 2020. The organisation's achievements have already exceeded its target and now stand at the 32 per cent mark.
Considering the different level of outcomes from all the conferences, the agenda is still focused at the strong commitment by leaders and following through on them. The experts at the ongoing conference have said that enough strategies were decided in the previous years. But immediate and radical actions were yet to be taken by the respective stakeholders in order to restrict global warming to 1.5°C. Even the countries, who had committed to decrease their carbon emission at COP21, have pushed the world on a path that will suffer more than 3°C of global warming from now till the end of this century.
Only 16 signatories out of more than 150 of the Paris Agreement are executing their commitments, according to recent information. Unfortunately, none of the steps are coming from the biggest emitters. So, the reality of "actionable" commitments is a great concern in making agendas for ongoing and future meetings.
The commitments by countries in COP21 could be localised among citizens of the signatory countries. Awareness of citizens about the commitments by their leaders can force the latter to take significant actions.
In fact, the climate awareness mechanism has become very fragile. It needs immediate revision with the purpose of pushing governments to act more for the climate strategies, conducted by state and non-state stakeholders (investors, donors, visitors etc). The main objective of all these corresponding actions is to put countries on track to establish actionable goals by 2020 by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as stated in the Paris Agreement. The new ideas and experiences in this regard need to gain speed.
So, more awareness about climate action should be emphasised upon at COP24, where the governments need to negotiate about the so-called rulebook applied in the Paris Agreement. As there is still no common framework for measuring greenhouse gas emissions, the following areas can be considered as common platform to reduce global warming, especially in the high carbon emitter countries.
The awareness mechanism can lead to:
- PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION OF GREEN ENERGY: For example, an energy-saving bulb usually consumes five times less energy than the consumption of a normal bulb. Encouraging the use of such power-saving products can play a significant role.
- CHANGES IN HUMAN BEHAVIOUR AND ATTITUDE: Changes in human behaviour and attitude can also help. For example, many people forget to switch off lights and fans after leaving a room. This accounts for 20 to 40 per cent of regular consumption of power. If such carelessness can be addressed, then less power will be consumed. Similarly the wastage of water, fuel and other resources can also be addressed in this manner.
- NATURAL AIR CONDITIONERS: Green energy can be used to heat and cool rather than using air conditioners and other electrical devices.
- CUTTING DOWN ON ELECTRICAL DEVICE AND GADGET USE
- RETROFITTING OR RESTRUCTURING CLIMATE ADAPTIVE INFRASTRUCTURE OF TRANSPORT, VEHICLES AND ROAD SYSTEM: This can ensure better use of public transport. Less private vehicles on the streets will lead to less carbon dioxide emission. Cycling can be encouraged in most cities.
- DEVELOPING ZERO WASTE STRATEGIES in all organisations, especially at the time of product choice and its end use.
- GRADUALLY DEVELOPING PAPERLESS WORK ENVIRONMENT: Most paper being used is manufactured from trees. The cutting down of trees is also contributing to climate change. Paperless offices can address this problem.
- CHANGING AGRICULTURE PATTERN AND FOOD CONSUMPTION HABIT: Arable farming is better for the global climate than the traditional form of farming.
Finally, it is important to raise the voice for a common platform that would reduce greenhouse gas sources along with identifying practical gas reduction techniques. COP24 must ensure that the momentum of the climate-change initiatives taken by countries increase and this continues till 2020 and beyond.
Polin Kumar Saha is Senior Research Associate and sustainability professional at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division.