Moving Into Action Mode On Climate Change
A broad-based international dialogue can facilitate global stock take and increase ambitions
Photo Credit : Reuters
The much-acclaimed Paris Agreement on climate change has had a tumultuous year. The agreement came into force with much fanfare on November 4, 2016, when 55 parties, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions signed the agreement. 195 countries have signed the agreement, with India signing on October 2 last year. Months later, US President Donald Trump shocked the world by announcing his decision to withdraw from the agreement. While has subsequently indicated that the US is open to renegotiating its participation in the agreement, it has introduced an element of uncertainty into climate change diplomacy.
What is certain is that climate change matters to global diplomacy in a way that it has not previously. Climate change is on its way to becoming one of the biggest public health crisis that humanity has ever faced. High impact hurricanes that laid waste to south-eastern USA have been described as a storm 'humans helped cause'. Back in India, incessant rains hit the country's financial capital Mumbai for 4 consecutive days bringing the city to its knees. This was preceded by similar 'crisis-like' situation in Chandigarh, Agartala and Bengaluru. Attributing a one-off event directly to climate change may be debatable, but the fact that these incidents are becoming more frequent and intense overall indicates an active role of global warming.
What is heartening, however, is that the world is coming together in more ways than one to collectively tackle the effects and causes of climate change. As the scientific evidence base and credibility behind climate change risk becomes stronger, the push to countries to change their attitudes toward investing in climate smart and resilient policies becomes stronger. This has resulted in growing investments worldwide, and across sectors, to de-risk future climate change threats.
In India, the viability of the renewables sector has gained a boost after an unprecedented decline in tariffs, which are now comparable to conventional electricity. China sees the business case for being the world's solar panel factory. In the US, the renewables industry provides jobs to over 700,000 people.
While there is growth in renewable energy capacity worldwide, driven by economic fundamentals rather than climate concerns, there are still issues around adaptation and reducing disaster risk for vulnerable nations. This is categorically a public finance issue since the developing world still heavily reliant on development assistance and low-cost finance from developed countries.
These aspects are likely to capture the public narrative as we move closer to the next Conference of Parties, or COP 23 in November in Bonn, Germany.
For the first time, the Presidency of the COP will go to a pacific island nation - Fiji. As a vulnerable pacific island nation that is preparing to tackle the most calamitous impacts of climate change, Fiji's presidency renews the sense of urgency to COP 23. Over the past years, Fiji has grappled with issues around disaster risk reduction, adaptation finance and reducing the burden of diesel imports and a moving to clean energy.
One of the key focus points of COP 23 will be to build consensus around the transparency mechanism that allows flexibility to parties to report on their nationally determined contributions. With the work on formalizing the implementation guidelines progressing slowly, COP 23 will have to re-group and work towards finalizing the contours of the implementation guidelines as we head into the facilitative dialogue the next year.
Ratcheting-up ambition is enshrined in the Paris Agreement and the 'global stock-take' is the key driver. The first "global stock-take" under the agreement was accordingly scheduled for 2023, with new NDCs to be submitted by 2025. The facilitative dialogue planned for 2018 would serve as a per-cursor to the 'global stock-take'. For the facilitative dialogue to be successful there is a need to engage parties towards a common goal which should be achieved through collective efforts. One way could be to initiate a year-long engagement process that will involve all key stakeholders to dwell upon the inputs to the stock taking exercise, what its operational modalities are, and what its outputs should be. The non-state actors should play an important role in this year-long process.
The non-state actors are now an integral part of climate change governance. They are highly diverse including local regional, national and international groups with various missions dedicated to sustainable development, poverty alleviation, food security, energy security, environmental protection and other issues. This diversity is the key to mobilizing assets motivating people and implementing programs. It also provides the parties with the opportunity to build collective ambition through collective efforts.
COP23 is an opportunity to reaffirm the collective global vision and intent to tackle climate change that was firmly established in Paris two years ago. It is a chance to renew the focus on one's own actions and results, and move forward with a positive attitude. With regard to tackling climate change, the world has run out of excuses for inaction, and soon, we may run out of time.
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