The COP26 summit in Glasgow, UK, did not yield much result. The heads of state of all the major countries did attend it. COP stands for the conference of parties. It is an annual meeting of 197 countries that has been taking place regularly for the last 25 years. This reinforces the belief that most countries accept that climate change is a global threat and needs to be tackled unanimously.
Climate change is not a recent concern. Environmentalists and climatologists have always been concerned about the damaging effect of industrialization on earth and have been campaigning for a cleaner and environment friendly earth.
Things came to a head during the late 80s and early 90s of the 20th century when carbon emission peaked, and the global temperature started rising. The United Nations took the initiative to mitigate the devastating effects of this on the people and earth. In the year 1992, an Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
The countries came together on one platform with the understanding that resources were being exploited rapaciously, threatening the very existence of humanity.
Climate change became the new mantra. This laid the foundation for international cooperation to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. In this meeting, a convention framework was established to tackle climate change.
This was the precursor to the first COP meeting. But most of the resolutions have been cosmetic in nature and have completely failed to prevent the rise of the greenhouse gas emissions.
These summits promise a lot but deliver very little. CO2 levels have increased 17% since 1992. Greenhouse gas index has risen 20% since 1992. Since 1992, the world has spewed 885.41 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
This has led to a continuous rise in the temperature of the planet as carbon traps the heat radiated by the surface of the planet and does not let it escape the atmosphere. This continued emission has drastically changed climate patterns leading to unseasonal rain damaging crops, cloudbursts causing landslides and excessive rain causing flooding of towns and cities.
COP26 is expected to be a watershed moment in the fight against carbon emission, but going by the track record of previous COP summits, it looks like a charade. The focal point of the present COP26 is to deliver on the Paris promises. In 2015, COP was held at Paris. The participating countries pledged to prevent the world from heating up more than 1.5 degrees since pre-industrialization levels.
The truth is we are far from that. The best-case scenario would be to contain the temperature rise to within 2 degrees. The primary goal of COP26 is to achieve net-zero emission. It also wants to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilize finance to fund climate change prevention and cooperate and work together on climate action.
The developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they do not have the financial resources to cope with the resulting economic devastation from it.
Some island countries situated close to sea level face the prospect of submergence under seawater as polar ice caps melt due to rising temperature. All these issues make COP26 a milestone in the global fight against climate change and carbon emissions.
India’s contribution to COP26 is also significant with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledging that India would achieve the target of net-zero emission by 2070. India also renewed its commitment towards a greener planet by promising to increase its non-fossil energy capacity by 500 GW by 2030.
India will fulfil 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy sources by 2030. Between now and 2030, India will reduce its total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tons. By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.
The Prime Minister of India called this the “Panchamrit” from India. China and India came together to change the objective of COP26 by agreeing to “phase down” coal rather than “phase out” coal as was expected.
These promises look very promising on pen and paper but how far can they be translated into reality remains to be seen. Climate change needs a consistent and concerted effort among countries over a long period of time. Do the countries have the patience to walk the talk? Only time will tell.