by Shirin Kaul

Increasingly people across the world are being challenged by the devastating outcomes of climate change. Now, more than ever, even more serious and sustainable measures need to be taken to stop the clock from ticking for irreversible damage

WITH climate change intensifying and scientists warning that humanity is running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 2021 has been a highly fraught year

for the planet. As shared by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)  website Emissions Gap Report 2021 reveals that new national climate pledges combined with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century. That is well above the goals of the Paris climate agreement and would lead to catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.

If implemented effectively, net-zero emissions pledges could limit warming to 2.2°C, closer to the well-below 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement. However, many national climate plans delay action until after 2030. The reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors could help close the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term, the report finds.

Gathered together at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021, world leaders on the frontline of climate change sought to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Amongst the countries represented at the event were some of the world’s leading emitters of carbon.

As revealed by the data put together by scientists the “Tipping point” in this Climate Crisis is about to come if not looked into with greater seriousness than ever before. Tipping point, for the uninitiated refers to the irreversible point in the Climate System, locking in further global heating. What was hard to concede for the worried leaders was the failure of achieving the primary goal of Paris Agreement 2015 which was to limit rising global temperature to 2 degrees celsius and cap heating to 1.5 degree celsius. Though over 190 nation-states participated in the Paris Conference, the commitment to cater to the urgent need for Climate protection wasn’t fully accomplished. This has spurred concerned leaders from around the across the globe to once again come together and address the issue to bring workable solutions into action.

The Conference of Parties (COP)26  was initially scheduled to take place in 2020 but was rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic, for 31st Oct to 12th Nov 2021in Glasgow (Scotland), The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The presidency is held by the UK in partnership with Italy. With about 30,000 delegates  attending the conference with more than 190 countries taking part, leaders from the People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation and Turkey however failed to attend the conference in person.

The Glasgow meet emerged out of two significant conferences held in Milan, Italy this year itself. The ‘Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition‘ (28th-30th Sept 2021) and The Pre-COP 26 Summit called ‘All4 Climate’ (30th Sept- 2nd Oct 2021). These conferences were part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth.

COP 26 and its Objectives:
The formation of COP 26’s objectives was created out of two International frameworks. The first was the Kyoto Protocol 1997 and the second the Paris Agreement 2015. COP 26 was tasked to fill in the gaps that existed in implementation of the aforementioned frameworks. ASEAN, for example, had reason to repeatedly push into consideration Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Showstopper of COP26
The highlight of this conference was the idea of “Climate Financing” wherein multiple nation-states have been seen making a commitment to contribute their part in the form of climate investment. A unique initiative introduced at the event by Singaporean Minister for Sustainability and Environment, Ms. Grace Fu was the idea of “Climate Governance” ahead of the conference within her country’s Parliament. This idea was much welcomed and was discussed further in the on-going COP26 Conference.

NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) are an essential component of COP26 discussions as it was one of the premier stones of the Paris Agreement. It is because of the NDC provision of the Agreement that head of the nation-states can be held accountable today.

Four key objectives marked the COP 26 Conference this year:

  • To secure Global net zero by mid century (2050) and keep 1.5 degree within reach. This includes actions like phase out coal, deforestation, speed up to switch e-, encourage investment in renewable energy.
  • To adapt to protect communities and natural habitats including protection and restoration of ecosystems, build defence, warming systems, resilient infrastructure and agriculture.
  • To mobilize Finance. COP 26 calls for the Developed countries to come forward and mobilize at least $100 Billion in climate finance per year.
  • To Work Together. Finalising Paris rulebook and encouraging collaboration between government, businesses and civil society are both essential agendas of this action.

Leaders have their say

The UK
 In his opening address at COP26 UK Prime minister Borris Johnson pointed out that:It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now. If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.’

The three goals that the UK has set itself are:

  1. Accelerate transition from coal to clean power
  2. Protect and restore nature for the benefit of people and climate
  3. Accelerate transition to zero emission vehicles

The focus right now is on climate action along with economic progression or growth. Its self-set targets include – net zero carbon emission 2050, To double International Climate finance to help developing nations with 11.6 billion pounds a year by 2025.In collaboration with Egypt, Bangladesh, Malavi, Netherlands, Saint Lucia and United NAtions Development Programme (UNDP)  the UK has co-developed “Adaption Action Coalition”. It has also highlighted the need for public and private financing.

While President Xi Jingping, was not there personally to attend the conference he had sent a written official statement saying : ‘ I hope all parties will take stronger actions to jointly tackle the climate challenge and protect the planet, the shared home for us all’, as reported by Xinhua News (state news agency in China). Furthermore President Xi shared that: ‘China would vigorously” develop renewable energy and build wind and solar power stations and that China would “rein in the irrational development of energy intensive and high-emissions projects.’ To be noted, however, was that China failed to make any new commitments on climate change. China’s target for net zero is also well beyond the 2050 target.

US President Joe Biden in his opening speech spoke of how “in an age where this pandemic has made so painfully clear that no nation can wall itself off from borderless threats, we know that none of us can escape the worst that’s yet to come if we fail to seize this moment.’ Further he talked about the significance of seeing this as an opportunity to strive towards a cleaner future but also for more economic progression. He was of the belief that investing in innovation can solve both purposes as well as create and make more jobs accessible to the people. President Biden has set short and long term sprints to achieve. One of these was for America to quadruple Climate finance support for developing countries by 2024. The country was also targeting to achieve zero emissions by 2050. President Biden emphasized. Its “Build Back Better World” initiative in partnership with other G-7 partners was looking at investing $555 billion along with the Bipartisan Infrastructure deal. It is estimated that these two together can reduce greenhouse gas pollution by over 1 gigaton in 2030. America has also contributed $3 billion to the adaptation funds.

According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi India had ‘delivered both in letter and in spirit’ on its Paris commitment. He pledged to reach a net zero carbon emission by the year 2070. His speech included 5 climate related pledges including meeting 50% of its energy needs 2030. Prime Minister Modi also said that India would reduce carbon emission by 45%.

Though he did not personally attend the conference Russian President Vladmir Putin sent a recorded video statement saying that ‘I am convinced the conservation of forest and other natural ecosystems is a key component of International efforts to tackle global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions’. He said Russia also aims for carbon neutrality by the year 2060 although almost a decade later to the global deadline. In reference to this he stated ‘Russia is committed to achieving a carbon neutral economy by 2060 at the latest and is relying , among other things, on unique natural resources of its forest ecosystem and their significant capacity to absorb CO2 and produce O2.’

Japan makes a promising comeback in the climate change summit. The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida pledged to fund more than $10 billion in over 5 years to aid Asia reach the goal of net zero carbon emissions. In a statement he further stated that Japan would double its assistance to $14.8 billion to help other countries adapt to climate change and prevent disasters. Eventually, it will invest in a $100 million project to develop hydrogen or ammonia fired emissions which are non-carbon based alternatives to energy production.I assure that Japan aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% in the fiscal year 2030 from its fiscal year 2013 levels, and that Japan will continue strenuous efforts in its challenge to meet the lofty goal of cutting its emissions by 50%.’  Kishida stated.

Singapore committed to phasing out unabated coal power by 2050, as announced by the PMO on November 4, 2020. The declaration came as Singapore announced its membership of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. ‘The burning of coal is putting billions of people at immediate risk. This is why Singapore has decided to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance,”’ said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu at the COP26 Energy Presidency Event . ‘We will transform our industry, economy, and society to be more energy and carbon-efficient, and to adopt more low-carbon energy in support of the goals of the Paris Agreement,’ she said. 

For all COP26 official statements click here:

Emissions by Country

THE world’s countries produce varying amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The overall emissions level in a country can be explained by the size of its population, its GDP, its energy mix, and more.

In 2017, global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion reached 32.8 billion tons in 2017 according to the International Energy Agency. China, the largest contributor, was responsible for 28% of these emissions, followed by the United States (14%), the European Union as a whole (10%), India (7%), Russia (5%), Japan (3%), Korea (2%), Canada (2%), Indonesia (2%), and Iran (2%). All other countries produced about 25% of emissions.

The 20 countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions (in million tons (Mt)) are:

  1. China (9,300 Mt)
  2. The United States (4,800 Mt)
  3. India (2,200 Mt)
  4. Russia (1,500 Mt)
  5. Japan (1,100 Mt)
  6. Germany (718.8 Mt)
  7. Korea (600 Mt)
  8. Iran (567.1 Mt)
  9. Canada (547.8 Mt)
  10. Saudi Arabia (532.2 Mt)
  11. Indonesia (496.4 Mt)
  12. Mexico (446.0 Mt)
  13. Brazil (427.6 Mt)
  14. South Africa (421.7 Mt)
  15. Australia (384.6 Mt)
  16. Turkey (378.6 Mt)
  17. United Kingdom (358.7 Mt)
  18. Italy (321.5 Mt)
  19. France (306.1 Mt)
  20. Poland (305.8 Mt)