Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend the COP26 summit in Glasgow in the United Kingdom from November 1 to 2. He is currently attending the G20 Summit in the Italian capital of Rome.
"I will also highlight the need to comprehensively address climate change issues including equitable distribution of carbon space, support for mitigation and adaptation and resilience building measures, mobilization of finance, technology transfer and importance of sustainable lifestyles for green and inclusive growth", said Modi is in his statement before departure for Rome.
The United Kingdom, jointly with Italy, will play host to the 26th summit of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework on the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
This is an international treaty on climate change which has 197 parties (196 countries and the European Union).
Here's five things you need to know about the conference and the issues it addresses.
1. What is the agenda of COP26?
The official agenda of COP26 is multi-faceted.
First, it aims to secure 'net-zero' emission targets by 2050 - or 'global net-zero' - and keep a temperature rise of 1.5 degree Celsius within reach. Countries would be asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets to this end. The COP26 agenda says that the conduit towards the goals would be to hasten the phasing out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch towards electric vehicles and invest in renewable sources of energy
Second, it aims to restore communities and ecosystems. The agenda says that countries should work together to build defence and warning systems and resilient infrastructure to save livelihood and lives.
Third, on the financial front, it aims to make good on the promise made by developed countries in 2009 in Copenhagen to ensure $100 billion in climate financing per year, that was originally due by 2020. In September, data provided by the OECD said that this figure stood at $79.6 billion in 2019. It also seeks cooperation with international financial institutions to play their part.
Lastly, it wants to finalise the rulebook of the Paris Agreement, which was made in COP21 in 2015.
2. What is net-zero?
Net-zero refers to a balance in greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere.
It means achieving an overall balance where greenhouse gas emissions are offset by those taken out of the atmosphere. These emissions can be taken out by natural means like planting new forests, or through carbon capture technology like air capture, which is still nascent.
Net-zero does not mean that there is a lack of greenhouse gas emissions. However, it implies that all gasses that are being emitted are being offset by corresponding removals from the atmosphere.
Eventually, at net-zero, even though there would be nil net emissions, there will still be the need to go further to pump existing emissions out of the atmosphere by offsetting more gases than those being produced. This can be read here.
"To keep the temperature of the planet under control – limiting its increase to 1.5 degrees - the science dictates that by the second half of the century, we should be producing less carbon than we take out of the atmosphere", said Alok Sharma, President-Designate of the COP26 and a member of the British Cabinet.
The United Nations records 130 countries that have either set or will consider setting net-zero targets in the coming decades.
3. Why the 1.5 degree temperature increase target?
Net-zero is being stressed on to reach the global goal of keeping the global temperature increase within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.
This goal is based on scientific consensus. At a two-degree rise, an estimated third of the global population would be exposed to severe heat, with risks of health issues, rise in water levels through potentially irreversible melting of icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland and a damage to wildlife. Arctic ice sheets would melt entirely at least one summer every decade.
A 1.5 degree rise would be serious, but less severe. There would be fewer shortages of food and potable water, and well as fewer threats to public health through pollution, disease or extreme heat. This is the reason even a fraction of temperature rise matters, the COP26 agenda says.
Data from NASA shows that 2020 was 1.02 degrees Celsius hotter relative the average temperature between 1951-1980. 19 of the hottest years on record were post 2000, with 2020 being tied with 2016 as the hottest years on record since record keeping began in 1880. Read this here.
4. What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, is an agreement where all countries undertake self-imposed emission and climate targets to keep below the two degree, and ideally 1.5 degree target.
These steps were called Nationally Determined Contributions, and were agreed upon to be binding no matter how big or small.
India entered (or ratified) the Paris Agreement on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) in 2016.
India's goals are:
- To reduce the emission intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 33-35% by 2030, relative to 2005
- 40% of electric capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030, which is a jump of a third relative to 2015
- 2.5 to 3 billion tons of a carbon sink through additional forest and tree cover
- To undertake further investments in sectors vulnerable to climate change
A Ministry of Power update this year on the progress of these goals can be seen here.
The COP26 aims to further codify the rules of the agreement.
5. What is India's stance at the COP26?
Comments from the Indian government of late has given indications that the country will reject the net-zero by 2050 target.
According a report by Reuters, India's Environment Secretary R.P.Gupta told reporters that announcing net zero was not the solution to the climate crisis. "It is how much carbon you are going to put in the atmosphere before reaching net zero that is more important", said Gupta.
India is under pressure to indicate a carbon-neutral or a net-zero goal as the world's third largest emitter; something India has historically resisted. This is due to the fact that India remains largely dependent on fossil fuels to meet its power requirement, which will become more important as India grows and requires more energy.
The United States, the largest and China, the second largest, have indicated potential deadlines of 2050 and 2060 respectively.
"In the forthcoming COP, the assistance that developing countries such as India need for mitigating carbon emissions, adapting to a warming world, and insisting on a firm, transparent framework that lays out how this can be met, will be the points of discussion", said Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav in an interview.
Further, India will emphasise "climate justice", according to Yadav.
The agenda and references for the COP26 can be read here.
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