FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 7

The climate challenge

Climate change caused by global warming is undoubtedly the biggest ever challenge faced by inhabitants of the earth and if it continues at its current pace, it could spell disaster for all of humanity.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was right on the money when addressing the COP26 Conference on climate change in Glasgow, he said, “The addiction to fossil fuels which threatens to push humanity and the planet to the brink through unsustainable global warming is tantamount to digging our own graves.”

The concern shown by the UN Secretary General on the issue of global warming, which is instrumental to climate change, can be better understood in the backdrop of the reality that in spite of two international protocols, known as the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, the required cooperation and fulfilment of commitments made by the industrial nations to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, has not come forth. Some of the bigger nations did not ratify the protocols and pulled out of them followed by some others who only partially stood true to their undertakings. According to authentic reports compiled in this regard, ten nations are responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions while 15 percent is contributed by all other nations.

No wonder then that COP26 aims at bringing countries together to agree on a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced outcome that takes forward coordinated climate action and resolves key issues related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Paris agreement set the goal—limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

COP26 started on a promising note with global leaders recognising the gravity of the situation and expressing resolve and optimism to collectively fulfil their responsibility to save the world from impending disaster.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated, “We need to make this COP26 the moment we get real about climate change. We can get real. COP26 will not, and cannot be, the end of the story of climate change. The work will not end, even if the conference finishes with the needed commitments. We might not feel like James Bond, or look like James Bond, but COP26 must be the start of defusing that bomb. Yes, it is going to be hard, but yes, we can do it”.

It is pertinent to mention that US President Biden immediately after his inauguration had announced rejoining the Paris Agreement from which his predecessor had pulled out. He also convened a leaders’ summit on climate change to deliberate the issue and set the agenda for COP26. Rejoining the Paris Agreement by the US and the commitments made by President Biden are good signs for building global solidarity on the issue of climate change.

The atmosphere emanating from the COP Conference so far is quite encouraging. Many countries have joined the US and European Union in making the pledge to cut the emission of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—by at least 30 percent this decade, in a major commitment for climate action. The experts are of the view that this could have a deep short-term impact on global warming. This commitment came on the heels of 100 nations agreeing to end deforestation by 2030. The conference also echoed the fulfilment of the pledge made earlier by wealthy countries to provide $100 billion every year to poor countries who are not responsible for most of the emissions but experience the worst effects of global warming. The British Prime Minister conceded, “We owe a special duty to those developing countries and that is why the $100b commitment to support them is so important. But other countries are going to have to do more. The key pledge of $100b in climate funding to poorer and more vulnerable nations would still miss its original deadline, but it will be there for 2023. Further action from countries around the world is needed”.

It is hoped that the conference will provide credible and implementable outcomes to tackle the challenge of global warming and the pledges and commitments made, unlike in previous agreements, are fulfilled with unremitting sincerity and commitment. While the industrial nations are under greater obligation to contribute their best in this regard, the developing and affected countries also need to play their role in this collective effort. The best course for them is to prevent deforestation and planting more and more trees to mitigate the impact of climate change, like the Pakistani initiative to plant 10 billion trees, which has been acknowledged and praised the world over.