The Conference of states of the climate change convention has just finished in Egypt, Sharm al Sheikh. After a long and intense overtime until Saturday night, the outlook is bleak. Although the theme of the conference was “implementation”, advances on financing for developing countries and the issue of compensation for damages and losses caused by the climate crisis had a modest result. A financial mechanism is created, but it must be made operational, filled with resources, and who can access the fund and under what conditions must be defined. That is pending task. The discussions about the energy transition and the use of fossil fuels and the reduction of emissions were insufficient and lukewarm. And as in everything, we can see the glass half empty or half full; we can see the good, the bad and the ugly.
After participating in and closely following the world of climate negotiations for almost two decades, we can say that this chiaroscuro exists.
The good: We have more and better information about the changes in the atmosphere that cause global warming. Science is becoming more sophisticated and we know the consequences, we have the projections, the scenarios, and we also have the technologies and knowledge to reverse the trends. In fact, renewable energy prices have dropped significantly and cost less than fossil fuels, especially solar and wind power.
The bad: Each new report on the subject paints a bleaker picture, and the gaps between commitments and results widen. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow steadily despite commitments to halve them by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2050. If the rate of emissions continues, we will reach an increase in temperatures of 2.8 degrees Celsius , when the agreed goal is 1.5 degrees. This increase would be devastating for coastal and more vulnerable countries such as island states. 90% of people threatened by climate disasters now live in developing countries.
We know that the climate crisis puts our existence as a species at risk, generates more poverty and hunger, generates or deepens conflicts. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, 90% of the world’s refugees come from countries affected by the climate crisis, of which 80% are women.
The good: We have a Convention with 195 member states, and annual conferences, the famous COPs, -in fact we are already in the 27th edition-. COPs are a platform where almost everyone is represented, and have become the red carpet for the political world, environmental activism, local governments, women, indigenous peoples, philanthropy, civil society organizations, youth, large and small companies. In short, if you don’t go to the climate change COP, you’re not in anything. Egypt was attended by 110 heads of state and government, of which only 7 were women. Each speech was more vigorous than the other, more commitments and more promises from the industrialized countries and more demands and mistrust from the developing countries. The whole world is focused on climate change.
The bad: Despite the thousands of people who attend the COPs, decisions continue to be made in small circles of influence and power, and the decisions that are made are not always in tune with the urgency and depth of the crisis. We see that dozens of pacts, commitments, agreements are signed outside the scheme of inter-governmental negotiation. None of these commitments, which include financing, joint projects, reductions in the carbon footprint of production, have a well-orchestrated accountability mechanism. Even the intergovernmental agreements, the results of the COPs, including the paradigmatic Paris Agreement, have instruments of responsibility and accountability. What is serious is that there is a clear erosion of confidence not only in the COPs on climate change but also in the usefulness of the multilateral system to solve humanity’s most serious problems. There is also a crisis of confidence between the countries that generate the emissions and those that suffer the consequences.
Looking ahead, there are enormous tasks ahead, including serious, sustained and predictable financing for developing countries. The promise of 100 billion dollars a year for developing countries must be fulfilled. The rules of the game on access to resources in multilateral banking also require a drastic transformation, aimed not only at reducing emissions but also at adapting to disasters caused by the climate emergency. It also requires a transfer of low carbon technologies.
And of course, action to reduce emissions is vital. We need a clear, credible roadmap backed by concrete actions from countries with the largest carbon footprints. This will imply the acceleration of the energy transition that requires coordinated action by States, multilateral banks and the private sector, but also by science, civil society, women and youth. We need a climate pact based on the recovery of trust, solidarity, justice and co-responsibility. Our survival as a species depends on it. A stable climate and a safe and pollution-free environment are human rights.
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