Climate-meet only a ritual?

Dec 19, 2023

The rapid replacement of fossil fuel with renewable energy by two-thirds is a too ambitious target to be met by 2030. The advantage of energy efficiency cannot be meaningful if the world does not curtail the use of energy-consuming mobility and lifestyle.

Global leaders meet every year at the Conference of the Parties (COP) at the behest of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to brainstorm, prepare agreements and set protocols that can cut emissions and save the planet from warming. The Conference of Parties, which signed the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, began in 2005 under COP11. The first conference on climate change took place a decade before the first COP.

Each conference ended with hopes for optimists and hopelessness for unbiased environmentalists – finally back to square one as we see heat breaking the threshold and climate-altering the entire living ecosystem.

All the meetings ended in shambles with no concrete actions on the ground. The recently concluded COP28 in Dubai raised eyebrows, as Gulf countries, heavily reliant on the oil economy, were unlikely to prioritize the planet’s well-being at the cost of their economy. Though the Dubai climate action plan is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, the world may not go so rapidly to phase out conventional fuel. Tripling the capacity of renewable energy in the next six to seven years will be a gigantic task. The agreement on substantially reducing non-carbon dioxide emissions, including methane emissions by 2030 may also prove unachievable, especially when this is not binding. Because of this reason, a rapidly industrializing country like India seems to have agreed on the methane emission clause. That will make the Dubai action plan join the list of hitherto unmet promises of industrial powers.

The discussions about cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 are hollow without a solid roadmap and actionable strategies to back it up. These all are unrealistic ambitions. So long as COP28 members cannot compromise on economic ambitions, every attempt to protect the existence of the human species on Earth is. No action can be more prudent than the action to protect the lives on earth. 

As the meeting concluded, it became evident the impractically rapid expansion of renewable energy couldn’t be a solution to replace the usage of oil, gas, and fossil energy. While energy-efficient systems may proliferate, the rise in production and sale of vehicles in fast-developing economies will push up energy demand, which may offset the benefit of energy-efficient systems.

During the COP28 meeting, discussions around reducing oil consumption and production were outcast by consumption and production. Demand is increasing, as is supply. Oil-producing nations celebrated this lack of mention of oil in the draft, conveniently passing the responsibility onto each other. The citizens, who ultimately bear the brunt of climate change, are left questioning the purpose of these meetings. While leaders and business tycoons may not face immediate losses, the looming question mark over the lives of ordinary people remains. They seem to be indifferent about the issues the human world largely faces and they safeguard their business interest.

Amidst this, the UK’s Met Office, through its national weather service, has warned that global average temperatures may temporarily exceed the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius by next year. Alarmingly, this year alone has seen drastic climate changes that have brought us closer to this threshold, according to NASA Columbia. The COP28 meeting is an opportunity to take decisive action. Instead, leaders with different national interests continued to speak in contradictory terms. While acknowledging that war contributes significantly to the rise in temperature, countries like the US support conflicts and provide financial aid as well as weapons. If responsible nations fail to take the necessary steps, the human world will carry the brunt of devastating climate change.

It is disheartening to observe that leaders often prioritize their interests, driven by money and power, rather than working for the betterment of humanity. The classification of countries based on their economy and power further perpetuates this self-serving behaviour. As a result, the common man is left disillusioned, with little hope for meaningful change.

As Earth inches closer to its critical temperature threshold, the disappointment surrounding COP28 serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for global leaders to prioritize the fight against climate change. It is time for leaders to rise above personal and national interests and work together for the sake of humanity. The consequences of inaction are too grave not to ignore. It is a time for decisive action to understand the multiple damages – environmental and financial.

Indeed the rich countries believe their money meets their responsibility. The pledge of climate funds in the COP28, far less than COP27, is too small to meet trillions of dollars of loss for developing economies due to climate change. Undoubtedly, tough financial negotiations happened behind the curtains between business tycoons. It’s strikingly evident that COP28 this year was more a commercial deal than an effective climate action to save the Earth, much like all the previous years.