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COP Out | Learning by Proxy
The one way in which climate summit organisers can save the planet is by not organising the summits and eliminating the associated pollution.
2021 has been quite a year.
On that note, did it not seem like all of us were just too happy to get rid of 2020 and get into 2021? The year is almost finished!!
This year saw forest fires stretch from California to British Columbia in Canada. Thousands of square kilometres of forests were burnt. Historic records were reached. There were also forest fires in Russia and Scandinavia. The South of France saw thousands of acres burnt by forest fires. Brazil and Australia are now getting into their "Forest Fire Season". India also saw forest fires in Uttarakhand.
The West Coast of the United States also saw severe rains and flooding which went all the way across the mid-west right up to Boston. Belgium and Germany saw unprecedented flooding, they say it will take 10 years to fix the damage caused. Many cities in those countries were waist-deep in water. India and China also saw flooding in various parts of their country. The Indian state of Kerala has had to endure 2 floods this year! Bosnia is flooded as I write this post and so is Chennai in India.
Apart from this phenomena such as cloud bursts and heavy rainfall have become common across the globe.
“We have a climate problem”, would be the understatement of the century.
Earlier in the year, I had written a post on Carbon Markets. My sister declared the article too basic, but that is everything I understood.
I had mentioned,
In 1997, at Kyoto, 84 countries signed the Kyoto Protocol which laid the framework for global action against Climate Change and also created certain standards which we are fighting with even today.
One of the terms agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol was called Assigned Amount Unit (AAU), which we today refer to as a Carbon Credit. A Carbon Credit represents the allowance to emit greenhouse gases comprising one metric tonne of Carbon dioxide equivalents. This is calculated using the Global Warming Potential of the gas being emitted. For this purpose, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has created several tables.
The Agreement also created three groups of countries - Annex I, Annex II and Non-Annex. Each would commit to differing emissions from their economies. Most of the countries were part of Non-Annex, which commit to nothing, including the US. Almost every other major western economy is part of either Annex I or Annex II including Russia.
A group of countries called the Conference of Parties meets each year to discuss the state of the climate and how none of them would take any action. The Conference of Parties is abbreviated to COP and this year was the 26th time that they met.
This year close to 190 countries attended the event.
Just what is the problem with taking action?
America would like to implore every country to take action to curtail carbon emissions, especially if the country is underdeveloped or developing. The developing countries like India feel that the British and the Americans had a free run for the last 200 years. We are faced with this problem today because of them!
Why should we be expected to sacrifice growth, to atone for the sins that the west committed? Should the people in the developing countries not have an equal shot at growth?
America would like this to be like the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), which forbids nations from undertaking nuclear tests. America is the only country that has used nuclear weapons against another. They are NOT a party to the CTBT themselves AND they are the greatest proselytisers from the CTBT.
America still is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. Moving production to China does not mean the consumption does not arise from America. Much like the Chinese worker, who work 16-hour shifts for a pittance, they want 7 Billion people across the world to shoulder the burden of their pollution.
Poor countries, rocked by storms and flooding from climate change, have spent years trying to hold the big carbon-emitters accountable. While most rich nations have fiercely resisted this liability, attendees at COP26 will give it another try in Glasgow next week.
The US is the $2 trillion elephant in the room. That figure is a rough estimate (most likely at the very low end) of how much the world’s largest economy could owe other nations if it accepted liability for the “loss and damage” caused by its historical emissions of carbon dioxide, according to Richard Tol, an economics professor at the University of Sussex. The US and Europe have pumped the most carbon into the atmosphere since the industrial era began, although China is quickly narrowing the gap.
Explains why these meetings are useless most of the time.
This year again they met to declare their intentions to do nothing about the crisis. Here are some of the major announcements.
Money: Rich nations have clumsily failed to deliver their promised $100bn to poor countries by 2020. But the former Bank of England governor Mark Carney is looking to move trillions of dollars of private capital towards supporting clean technology. He has gathered 450 organisations controlling 130 trillion dollars, or around 40% of global private assets, and they plan to shift finances to activities that help the move towards zero carbon, such as renewable energy. Critics complain the financial institutions will be allowed to invest in fossil fuels, but it's a serious and novel offer
Trees: More than 100 countries promised to reverse deforestation by 2030. The pledge includes almost £14bn ($19.2bn) of public and private funds. We've seen similar initiatives before, but this one's better funded
Methane: There's a pact to cut emissions of the world's second-worst warming gas, methane, by 30% by 2030. Big emitters China, Russia and India haven't signed, but it's hoped they will join later
Creating markets: Forty nations led by the UK and including China, India and the US, will impose standards, incentives and rules, to create markets for new technologies. This could be transformative if it works. The partners might, for instance, agree a date by which a certain percentage of steel is made without using coal. This would give investors the confidence to know that markets for innovative technologies would be available, and could radically lower the price of clean tech worldwide
Clean energy: In what could be a new paradigm for helping countries to transition to clean energy, South Africa will get £6bn ($8.5 billion) to ditch coal, in a deal with France, Germany, the UK, the US and the EU
India: Prime Minister Modi has set aggressive targets for low-carbon power by 2030. Some people are worried that he doesn't plan to end greenhouse gases until 2070 - but the world will have changed completely by then, and India is likely to be forced economically come into step
UK rules: Most big UK firms and financial institutions will be asked to show how they intend to hit climate change targets. Plans will be submitted to an expert panel to ensure they are not just spin
Money - There is not any. American Congress is in gridlock to pay for climate action in America, let alone the rest of the world. England —> Self-goal (Brexit). The rest of Europe is also not really certain about contributing. So while there is a lot of talk, there is no idea where the money will come from. Also, the developing countries think the sum should be around USD 1.8 Trillion per year.
Trees - Essentially, they have given themselves a clean chit to go on cutting trees for the next 10 years.
Methane - Same as above.
Creating Markets - They have been agreeing on this since the Kyoto Summit. There is still no clarity. There is not even a real and practical framework let alone an actual market
Clean Energy - Everyone will get money to add renewable capacity but at the same time Coal capacity will also rise. India promises hundred of gigawatts of renewable capacity but we are also building new coal plants.
India - Mr Modi is 71, he made a promise about something that is expected to happen in 2070. I will let that sink in.
UK Rules - More Greenwashing
Greenwashing (a compound word modelled on "whitewash"), also called "green sheen", is a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization's products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.
So we came away with nothing once again. Not to mention...
1.8ºC: Warming above pre-industrial levels if all net zero pledges and the Global Methane Pledge are fully achieved
$18 billion: Amount of money that could be diverted away from fossil fuels as a result of the new overseas finance pledge
479: Number of officially registered COP26 delegates from Brazil, the most of any country
60: Number registered from China
79%: Share of all countries that have a climate change adaptation plan
4: Countries (out of 195) that signed the Paris Agreement whose national governments have yet to ratify the deal—the remaining holdouts are Iran, Libya, Eritrea, and Yemen
Do you know the number of lobbyists from Fossil fuel companies at COP26? 503.
Even if all these 'pledges' are met, we will come away with a planet that is still hotter. We have given up on the possibility of going back to pre-industrial levels.
Even if we do manage to set up the Carbon markets successfully and get them operational, there are serious issues that need to be addressed.
Proving “additionality.” Additionality is a major problem in existing voluntary carbon markets: Should a forest conservation project really generate carbon credits if it faces no actual threat of being cut down? Negotiators need to agree on how a selling party should determine baselines for different types of projects.
Matching emissions vs. reducing them. Language like “overall mitigation in global emissions” would require the market to do more than offset emissions in one country with reductions in another. The idea is that carbon credit buyers should receive fewer credits than they pay for, such that trading activity proactively reduces net emissions. The draft text pegs that tax as low as 2% or as high as 30%, with developing countries arguing for the higher end.
How to prevent double-counting. If both the buying and selling countries could count sold credits toward their own emissions targets, it would delegitimize the market.
“Share-of-proceeds.” Some negotiators argue that a share of each trade should be diverted into a fund that developing countries could tap for adaptation. The US and other rich countries are pushing for this to be excluded when trades are conducted bilaterally rather than through a UN-administered marketplace.
Crediting the original credits? Negotiators need to figure out what to do with credits from that smaller carbon market piloted under the Kyoto Protocol. Countries like Brazil and India want to continue selling those credits. Others argue those credits are outdated and should be tossed.
Unless there is an agreement in earnest and a willingness to pursue the spirit of the law rather than find loopholes to make it seem like everyone is adhering to the word of the law; there is no point in creating the law.
In the meantime, the best way to defend against climate change would be to avoid events like the COP26 which would have brought thousands of planes to Glasgow burning millions of gallons of fuel only to put up a charade.