As the mean global temperatures briefly crossed the critical threshold of 2˚C last week, the climate clamour is also heating up. COP28 needs to cool the temperatures among negotiators. The fissures need to be bridged and not deepened. Being regarded as the COP of energy and ambition, COP28 is of critical importance as the 1st Global Stocktake (GST) culminates. GST is a collective report card on global efforts to combat climate change and COP28 must accordingly respond to this addressing the way forward to ensure that we are on track to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement.
The agreed synthesis report of the GST has put up two clear messages: firstly that global emissions are not in line with modelled global mitigation pathways consistent with the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement and secondly, that much more ambition in action and support is needed. The recently launched UNEP’s 2023 Emissions Gap Report indicates that current pledges are putting the world on track for a 2.5-2.9°C temperature rise. It also underlines the implementation gap between current policies and NDC pledges stands, particularly significant in many G20 developed nations. Enhancing NDC pledges is therefore important but reviewing progress of past pledges is also important for countries to focus on action and take necessary corrective measures. As the Prime Minister of India indicated in his speech at COP28 – it is imperative to ensure that the current NDC commitments are honoured by the respective nations for the collective future.
From a developing countries’ perspective, we need and want to be part of the solution for the world to collectively meet the 1.5°C target as we are projected to face major adverse impacts. Intrinsic to this is that our developmental targets must be understood and taken into consideration. From an economy’s perspective, any energy is better than no energy. As we try to achieve our developmental targets, while improving our systems to de-couple GDP growth from emissions growth and ensure that the burden of such environmental costs is not passed on to our citizens, coal would continue to be the mainstay of our energy systems. When cooperating, Global North should look at practical ways to ease our constraints and therefore enable the multiple transformations we require. This needs-based, country-driven approach calls for an innovative approach to international cooperation, as discussed in a recent report published by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways initiative.
Equitable and accessible ‘means for implementation’ in UNFCCC language has to be translated into large scale low-cost financing and access to appropriate and economically-viable technologies in the real world, for example, to build considerable green infrastructure for our growth aspirations. The need to scale-up climate finance in developing countries has been emphasised in the GST’s synthesis report and asserted in several political fora, including the recent New Delhi Declaration of the G20. On one hand, this requires addressing the concerns of unfulfilled long-standing commitments from developed countries, including goal of doubling adaptation finance; and on another one, vigorously supporting the ongoing efforts towards the establishment of a new financial architecture to strengthen the international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the multilateral development banks (MDBs) as well as greater engagement from private sector. The independent expert group involved with the deliberations of finance under recent G20 has pegged a need for $1.8 trillion additional investments for climate action. COP28 should not try to reinvent these decisions that have been already agreed at G20, rather deliberate on how to support their expeditious implementation. To this, COP28 should build bridges with those many actors that have the capacity to contribute to these structural changes. To enhance innovation, COP28 could encourage individual countries to align their annual budgets with climate change risks and necessary transitions. Businesses and industry needs to be involved in climate negotiations as part of each country negotiating teams to have more purposeful discussions in technology transfer and blended finance.
Enabling the transformations in developing countries under a needs-based approach implies recognizing the finance needs in continuously shrinking adaptation finance, as India’s submission to the GST process emphasises. GHG mitigation is important, but for the developing world, adaptation is urgent. A report by the University of Delaware’s Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub notes that India suffered an estimated 8% GDP loss in 2022 due to climate change while the global population-weighted average was 6.3% – this is a huge setback for a growing economy. Reforming international cooperation to be needs-based and holistic, something universally agreed under GST report card too, implies to position resilience at the centre of investment-related decision-making. We also welcome the progress that the fund for Loss and Damage has become operational at the first day of the COP28. Currently, the loss and damage fund is voluntary and there is no target amount set for raising the fund. And while the details on who pays how much and who receives how much are still to be established, the discussions have not warranted a renegotiation on what was already been agreed to. This is a sign of the will for compromises if it means we are starting to work together as a world.
In a tense geopolitical context, COP28 is a moment of truth for climate action and the ultimate test for the Paris Agreement, which was built on the dual premise of country-driven action and reinforced cooperative approaches to deliver ambition. Hence, for India and the global South, the approach of bringing at the front the climate-compatible development pathways and adaptation needs as defined by them would be of prime importance. And there are multiple opportunities for Global North and Global South to work together on these. Conventional approaches to cooperation have been insufficient -not just for ambition, but particularly for action needed on the ground. GST report indicates we need creativity and innovation in policymaking and international cooperation to overcome the obstacles that persists within established paradigms, entrenched structural relationships between key actors and significant disparities in resources and capabilities among these actors. COP28 is a unique opportunity to send a clear political signal in this direction, build confidence and to act as a lever of technical and organizational changes in all sectors and all countries. It is a question of trust and confidence between North and South, and a matter of practical viability and efficiency towards our united fight against climate change. We truly believe in “One world, one family, and one future” – our G20 theme – and we believe that COP28 can bring us together to deliver more ambitious climate action through innovative international cooperation.