As climate crisis rages, COP fails to deliver
Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC countries) issued a joint statement on Wednesday have asked for carryover of millions of unsold carbon credits from the clean development mechanism under Kyoto Protocol to the new carbon market scheme.Updated: Dec 13, 2019 12:42 IST
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid hasn’t delivered much on countering climate change.
It would have, however, added to the problem of global warming by way of carbon emissions with over 26,000 delegates, civil society members and media gathered over two weeks for one of the biggest annual climate jamborees (as many call it), which was expected to get the big polluters on board to raise their ambition to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global mean temperature rise under 2 degrees.
But most big polluters have, in fact, blocked a resolution on key issues, slowing down talks further. The conference officially scheduled to close today has resolved none of the key issues yet, with chances of them carrying over to a next mid-year meeting.
For example, the United States of America, responsible for the largest emissions between 1990 and 2004, and the second largest after China since then, is trying to escape any responsibility for paying reparations to vulnerable countries impacted by climate change as per a draft note reportedly circulated by US among delegation leads.
According to Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for ActionAid, the US has urged that paragraph 51 of Article 8 (pertaining to loss and damage) COP21 decision which led to the Paris Agreement be invoked again with reference to compensation for loss and damage. The paragraph says Article 8 of the Agreement does not provide a basis for any liability or compensation.
“This liability waiver was put into a COP decision and not the Paris Agreement itself. Now, the US is also pushing for all parties to the convention (COP), including those not signed up the Paris Agreement (US is party to convention but has started withdrawing from the Paris Agreement), to be on the executive committee, or decision-making body, of the loss and damage mechanism. They want to ensure their polluting industries are protected from any kind of liability,” Singh added.
Another sticky issue which was to be resolved at this COP conference was the creation of new carbon markets. About 51 per cent of all nationally determined contributions (NDCs) have included carbon markets - a carbon trading scheme as one of the means to achieve emission reduction goals according to World Resources Institute (WRI). But when it comes to ensuring the “environmental integrity” of the scheme or ensuring that it’s cheating proof, some countries are creating an impasse according to observers.
“Australia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, they are clearly not fighting for environmental integrity in the rules. And if you don’t have that in place, you can do a lot of harms,” Bas Eickhout, member of the European Parliament was quoted in Climate Home News. Some countries led by Brazil have been pushing for double counting of credits to be allowed. When one country sells emissions reductions to another, it must adjust its own emissions data accordingly so that sellers don’t get credit twice on the work they did on the same project. But they insist that it be counted. It is also imperative according to climate scientists that carbon credit trading leads to a real reduction in emissions and not passing around of credits among countries to meet pledges on paper.
Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC countries) issued a joint statement on Wednesday have asked for carryover of millions of unsold carbon credits from the clean development mechanism under Kyoto Protocol to the new carbon market scheme. This, however, could lead to a complete collapse of the new market, experts have warned.
“Time is running out and Article 6 still has many open issues. Resolving the issues of corresponding adjustments and CDM transition are important for an effective carbon market instrument,” Karan Mangotra, climate finance expert at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
There was no movement on pre-2020 commitments by big polluters either, particularly the elephant in the room - climate finance. Developed countries had committed to mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 to support developing nations in mitigating and adapting to climate change, very little of which has come through.
With no resolution in sight, the COP Presidency Chile informed delegates and participants late on Thursday that all work including ministerial consultations should be concluded by Thursday midnight. It also told the members that an informal stock-taking meeting will be convened on Friday afternoon and a way forward will be decided. Some participants said the talks may be extended to the weekend.
Many observers, including scientists, were shocked at the way the climate emergency is being responded to. “It’s been eight days of #COP25 so far and I haven’t heard any relevant outcome from the convention. There are lots of messages, some from leaders, few scientists… I might be wrong but seems like a waste of time, money and aeroplane’s CO2 emissions,” tweeted Javier del Campo, assistant professor at University of Miami tweeted on Wednesday.
Interestingly, the scientific community created enough noise at the opening of the COP to drive home the message of urgency. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s chair, Hoesung Lee had said the planet’s adaptative capacity is being challenged. “Our three special reports on warming of 1.5°C, climate change and land, and the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate (published earlier this year) indicated that the impacts of current warming are much more severe than previously understood: e.g. accelerating sea level rise and ocean warming, some key ecosystems becoming much more vulnerable, and increasing risks of reaching limits to adaptation,” Lee had said. But science isn’t informing the talks in Madrid as it is set to close without progress.