COP15 and COP26 are right around the corner and it’s a time when governments reveal their strategies towards safeguarding earth’s valuable ecosystems, using actions and not words.
Governments have typically fallen short of their commitments, but the danger is ever so real.
The UAE and COP26
The UAE is assessing plans for a net-zero emissions target, a process that may not be finished in time for COP26, the 26th gathering of the parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The country’s heat and dry conditions make reducing greenhouse gas emissions difficult because of the energy needed for cooling and desalination, according to Qais Al Suwaidi, head of the ministry’s climate change department.
“Don’t expect us to announce anything by the COP26, but we are considering a net-zero target like any other part of the world,” he told media.
No major OPEC producer has announced a net-zero target viewed as crucial to prevent temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
The UAE needs more time to carry out studies that will determine how quickly it can reach net-zero, Al Suwaidi said.
Adopting stronger commitments wouldn’t necessarily require the UAE to produce or sell less oil, but setting a net-zero target for emissions produced within its borders would single them out among fellow producers and possibly lead others in the Persian Gulf to follow suit.
Last December, the UAE pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost 25% over 10 years. The UAE is competing against South Korea to host the UN’s COP28 event in 2023, and is on course to surpass the target, said Al Suwaidi.
Damning report on climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is yet another tool negotiators can use to extract more ambitious commitments.
A recently released report by climate scientists will add pressure on world leaders to rapidly end the use of polluting fossil fuels. The authors warned that time is fast running out to stop global warming from exceeding 1.5º Celsius, the lower end of the temperature targets agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The report was signed off on by representatives from UN’s IPCC of nearly 200 member countries that include climate laggards who haven’t yet set targets for lowering emissions that are in line with Paris goals.
The report estimates that the world will probably reach or exceed 1.5º Celsius of warming within just the next two decades.
It said atmospheric concentrations of a range of greenhouse gases are increasing, the water cycle is assessed to be intensifying, frozen parts of the globe are melting, and the oceans are warming up, to list just a few indicators.
The report finds that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of the observed changes in hot and cold extremes on the global scale (virtually certain) and on most continents (very likely).
Urbanization appears to have furthered temperature extremes in cities and the report was clear that every part of the world is bound to be affected by climate change.
Specifically in Asia, marine heatwaves will continue to increase, fire weather seasons will lengthen and intensify, heavy rains will amplify, shorelines will retreat and coastal areas will shrink.
Solutions on offer
In addition to transformational policies, countries need to seriously tap into renewable energy sources and refrain from simply reducing unsustainable and polluting power sources.
As weforum.org says, “Governments can gear the market towards low-carbon activities in the pandemic recovery by stopping fossil fuel subsidies, putting a price on carbon, and making climate-related
financial disclosure mandatory.”
Advancements in organic farming, reforestation, water conservation, urban design, energy, and more have also shown to be worthy of consideration in the fight to safeguard our environment.
Two COPS to keep law and order on our planet
The COP26 conference is due in Glasgow in November. But its less high-profile sister, COP15, scheduled for October in the Chinese city of Kunming is also very significant.
COP15 is shorthand for the 15th meeting of the “conference of the parties” to the Convention on Biological Diversity, a treaty adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It has the vital task of conserving natural life so it can be used sustainably and fairly.
COP15 delegates aim to protect and conserve at least 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030. It would also cut pesticide use by at least two-thirds, halve food waste and eliminate the discharge of plastic waste.
But while carbon emissions are rightly treated as a global problem, countries regard the forests, fauna, and other natural life inside their borders as theirs to use as they wish.
Emissions are also easier to count than life at the bottom of the ocean or in a remote jungle, so it is easier to compare countries’ efforts to manage them.
Yet, this year’s scheduled COP meetings make up two sides of the same important coin. Forests, peatlands, and other types of wetlands store huge amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide that is released once such areas are burnt or drained for agriculture, as they often are. Protecting them therefore helps the climate as well as the natural life that depends on them.
Reversing the decline in biodiversity requires an average of $711 billion a year until 2030, according to a US think-tank.
If that sounds expensive, studies show $44 trillion of global GDP, roughly half, depends a little or a lot on nature. If the world’s bees, butterflies, and other pollinators alone were wiped out, it would lead to an estimated drop in annual agricultural output of some $217 bn.