The UNFCCC calls this summit every year with the agenda of a global agreement on the fight against climate change. All countries participated in the COP26 summit, like India, the USA, the EU, Australia, etc. participate in this summit. This year in 2021, the summit is named COP26. It is critical to understand the reason and importance of the same.
In the late 80s, world leaders recognized that global temperature is increasing, and it will create a dreadful climate effect. Agenda 21 was ratified at the Summit in Rio De Janerio in 1992. This agenda 21 was nothing to do with any numerical series of events. It is based on the global temperature limit proposed to save the world by the 21st century. Hence the name Agenda 21.
UNFCCC received responsibility for this global issue in the Rio 1992 meeting. UNFCCC is a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
197 countries i.e., the entire world became its member party. They agreed to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, which would limit the rise in surface temperatures. And for the same reason, the annual meet started to happen. The COP is the yearly summit of countries, i.e., Conference of Parties.
This year’s summit did not include participation from China, Russia, Brazil and Turkey. And this no-show has disappointed people for many reasons. While I have my disappointments as well, let’s look at how this COP26 number arrived.
Does COP26 has anything to do with the year 2021?
It confuses many people. But actually, this 26 number has nothing to do with the suffix of a year. Having said that, the numbering started at COP-1, which happened in 1995. Yes, the first COP Summit happened in 1995, although the UNFCCC got founded in 1992. And since then, the yearly summit has been getting the incremental number. So, why COP26? It is only because it’s the 26th year since 1995, hence today in 2021 it is called COP26.
I hope that clears the confusion for many people.
COP26 titled to reach Net-Zero by 2050, but India pledged +20 years.
Now this COP26 was titled as Target to reach Net Zero 2050 and the message was for countries to come up with a plan to determine things that they would be doing to assure that they will reach Net Zero by 2050. That means, the amount of carbon each country generates, they should be able to remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere. So, the idea was that you generate only that much carbon, which you can offset.
It is not like you cannot produce carbon for the matter of this COP26 summit. According to it, you should be able to limit how much carbon you can handle to clean. If you want to generate more carbon, you should have better technologies, resources, and capabilities to offset them. And that’s where the whole story changes from one country to another country.
At the COP26 summit, India committed that they can do Net-Zero by 2070 only, and ideally, if you look at it from a climate enthusiast perspective you will say that it’s wrong. As much as I agree with those sentiments, let’s try and figure out what the problem is that developing or poor countries, such as India, might be experiencing.
The USA produces the maximum % of carbon, i.e., 27%, and then comes China which generates 14% carbon dioxide. And 3rd is India – which is the contributor of around 7%. These three countries are responsible for almost 50% of carbon emissions.
India proposed 2070 for Net-Zero in COP26 Summit
Countries that are economically strong and developed are primarily those countries that were capable of carbon generation when this entire industrial revolution started. So, they were the early benefit receiver of this natural resource. As a result, they were able to generate a stable economy.
Carbon generation was the biggest factor that changed everything for countries like the USA. As they became the primary consumer of coal, oil, and gas making them responsible for this devastating climate impact.
With the limits imposed by UNFCCC, the conservative carbon production is impacting under-developed countries and poor nations. For them, they saw it as an opportunity to stabilize their economy using carbon. These factors are important for us to understand to have a fair view of the mindset these countries are having.
The main request of developing countries and poor countries is the opportunity to gain access to technologies. For instance, how to design and develop solar panels cost-effectively. However, the developed countries now have an eye on cashing this opportunity. They are considering climate change as an opportunity for selling such technologies and knowledge at a hefty price.
To succeed, under-developed nations would need knowledge, funds, and technology to achieve their country’s goals. And they eventually fear that the rich countries will keep on getting richer in this roadmap and poor countries will end up getting poorer.
Along with the targets, UNFCCC should align the goals for countries considering their actual state of the economy and should help them gain access to technologies, resources, and guidance for combatting climate change. If they don’t die of climate change, they’ll die of poverty or because of huge international debts.
India and its hidden agenda behind committing 50 years timeline in COP26
Fighting against climate change is not just a straightforward fight with greenhouse gas emissions or carbon. Taking climate change seriously means considering many factors and UNFCCC exists for this purpose only.
The developed countries cannot pursue their own hidden agendas monotonously, but should instead come forward to help these countries achieve a zero carbon future by providing the much-needed support in any matters they may seek to tackle.
Now let us face it, why India would have taken 50 years from now when the COP26 summit wanted the commitment of 30 years. I guess India is trying to grapple with other agendas in the shadow of this event, just like other nations. It will be necessary to shut down a lot of carbon-producing industries immediately if we are to achieve net-zero in 30 years. By doing so, there will be an increase in unemployment and would bring economic instability. For countries like India, that would be harsher than climate change currently, and the clock will start ticking immediately for them. Keeping both the climate and economy issues parallel is the only way to handle the situation.
At the COP26 summit, India played it differently. I think, to reduce the production and use of carbon by 2050, India demanded Uranium as an alternative resource. So in a way, they agreed that there is a possible way to reach net-zero for India by 2050. This is something essential to understanding, Uranium is one of those resources which have negligible availability in India – and by using Uranium India can develop nuclear energy. And this uranium-based nuclear energy generates a negligible amount of pollution.
India and the demand of Uranium
You would think, like other resources that India is buying from other countries, why not Uranium. The answer is – India cannot, as to buy Uranium, you need to be a member of NSG, i.e., Nuclear Suppliers Group.
NSG currently has 48 members, each of whom must formally join by agreeing to a new member introduction. For countries that aren’t a member of NSG, it is unlikely for them to procure Uranium easily. Even if India buys it from Canada, Australia, or any other Uranium-rich country, the processing time and the cost would be too expensive to afford.
Nevertheless, India has played this in COP26, and in return agreed to NSG membership, they will be able to accomplish the net-zero target by 2050, i.e., 30 years from now. As they will start replacing fossil fuel with Uranium based nuclear power.
But China is forcing India to sign the NPT, which is a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This means that after signing, India wouldn’t be able to keep any nuclear warfare capabilities. Neither India can use the technology for making any Nuclear bombs.
You might feel that it is a great ask considering humanity. What would make anyone want to keep nuclear technology to increase their warfare capabilities? Right? No, the treaty is biased in favor of five countries. The USA, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China—are allowed to keep nuclear as their warfare technology. For that matter, every other country is discouraged.
If India gets the NSG membership and signs the NPT, then India can’t consume Uranium for Nuclear warfare capabilities. In contrast, the USA, UK, China, Russia, and France would be able to do so. India demanded the same rule for everyone, and they disagreed to sign NPT.
When it comes to climate change, this is a serious problem and while negotiations are fine, there has to be a concrete and strong control of the governing body to mitigate the fair demands and to establish the right of equality. And at this point, UNFCCC is responsible to ensure such things.
Although the cause is greater than anything else in the world, wiser and more equitable decisions will help everyone to come closer. If countries have to sign NPT, then every country should do and there shouldn’t be any exemption to the USA, UK, China, Russia, and France. If everyone has to move to net-zero by 2050, then everyone should get equitable support to do so. As long as the cause is global, countries can’t stop working, some people need food, and hence intellectual property does not apply. Any fight which is global, like this Climate Change, or for that matter, we have been dealing with COVID-19. Humanity is bigger than anything and every country should step forward reasonably with their reasonable amount of help to support. Without wise and responsible action by the rich countries and their leaders, this life-threatening change will continue unabated.
And we do not have time to waste. It has to happen now, else we will lose the chance to save this planet.
In this Podcast Series of Conscious Citizens, we will learn about the concerning matter of Climate Change. Humanity faces the greatest threat from climate change, and it is important to address this issue as a matter of major concern. We will go through the impact of climate change on Humankind, the solutions that will define our fate, and the technological innovations that can help.
Climate risks pose serious threats to Kenya’s sustainable development goals. India and Kenya share a lot of similar concerns, in this talk of Conscious Citizens, Abhilash will discuss with Lynn the different aspects of climate issues concerning Kenya.
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Information provided in the podcast is a general guide from a personal perspective and does not constitute legal or authoritative advice. The statistics and regulations referred to in the podcast are sourced from the public information bureau and are subject to change with time. It is the viewer’s responsibility to verify the currency of information.