COP26: Hopes and Challenges
The key to the success of the ambitious emissions target will highly depend on the readiness of resources. Good leadership and governance are also an important requisite to realize these hopes as realities.
The big annual climate event, called the Conference of the Parties (COP), has been underway this week in Glasgow, Scotland, after its absence in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 26th Climate Change Conference (COP26) is attended by around 25,000 participants, including approximately 100 heads of state from various parts of the world. COP has dealt with climate change issues since more than a quarter of a century ago (1995) without any certainty over its conclusion.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, when opening COP26, dramatically stated to the attending world leaders (including President Joko Widodo): “Your Excellencies, we face a moment of truth. On behalf of this and future generations, I urge you: Choose ambition. Choose solidarity. Choose to safeguard our future and save humanity.”
Indonesia hosted COP13 in 2007 in Bali, which was attended by about 10,000 delegates and headed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as he COP President. Every conference ends with a global agreement of some form. The result of COP13, named the “Bali Action Plan”, contained four items: mitigation, adaptation, technology and implementation mechanisms.
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Of the COPs that have been held so far, COP21 in 2015 is seen as an important historic milestone, expected to change the road map for future solutions to the global climate crisis. The product of COP21, called the Paris Agreement, obliges all countries to take more ambitious climate actions to prevent global temperatures from rising above 2.0 degrees Celsius by striving to limit the rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent climate change impacts that could endanger the existence of living creatures on earth.
It should be understood that climate change has three key characteristics. First, it is a borderless issue. The actions or activities of one country will have an impact on other regions/countries. Second, it is a long-term issue, with the changes or impacts to be felt over a very long period of time, possibly 50-100 years. Third, it is scientifically proven, founded on scientific analyses and recommendations with the support of over 2,000 researchers across the world, including Indonesia, under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Unsurprisingly, climate issues are always related and linked to a country’s development plan.
What is being sought?
Experts are warning of the threat of climate catastrophes unless we prevent global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the earth’s average temperature before the industrial revolution in the 18th century. The ice caps in the North Pole, for instance, are melting, resulting in higher sea levels and threatening coastal cities, meaning that large-scale population migration is inevitable.
According to the latest IPCC report, 20-40 percent of the world population lives in impacted regions. In the 2006-2015 period, these regions experienced warming of over 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial global average for at least one season.
In order to overcome the adverse impacts of the climate crisis, COP26 has emerged with four main goals. First, it has affirmed a target to achieve zero global emissions by the middle of this century (2050) and to maintain a global temperature rise of not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement. To this end, all countries have been asked to submit more ambitious 2030 targets on emissions reduction.
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Second, it will intensify climate adaptation efforts to protect communities and other living creatures impacted by the climate disasters that have occurred and will continue with this amid the ongoing emissions reduction endeavors. Third, it will mobilize climate finance to fulfill these two objectives. Developed countries must fulfill their 2020 pledge to provide at least US$100 billion per year.
Fourth, it will increase cooperation to respond to the climate challenges in the areas of technology, financing and human resource capacity.
Hopes and challenges
Several reports indicate that the combined total of all countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) will be entirely insufficient to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement. IPCC experts have pointed to the necessity for more ambitious, faster and sustainable emissions targets to limit global warming and prevent worse climate impacts.
One of the biggest challenges is how to get China and India, the two global emission “kings”, to be actively involved in supporting this goal.
At COP26, international cooperation is expected to grow stronger in executing climate actions to achieve the Paris goals. A week before COP26, Indonesia, Brazil and the Congo, the three countries that have the largest tracts of tropical forests in the world, agreed to halt deforestation by 2030. The accord, called the “Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use”, was accepted by around 105 other countries one day after COP26 opened.
Negotiators should decide on how to evaluate the collective climate actions of all countries. Their decision will be very helpful in ensuring that data is collected and reported in a transparent and consistent manner, to generate a portrait of global improvements that can unite all countries in their endeavor to handle the climate crisis.
Emissions reduction targets should be measurable and their progress periodically evaluated in an assessment referred to as global stocktaking. Taking stock every five years to ascertain the collective improvements achieved by all countries through their climate actions is to commence in 2023.
The government should provide special resources for its climate action. In so doing, it will not only support their measurable assessment but also boost the climate response program. To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, net zero carbon emissions should be achieved no later than 2050 by realizing an ambitious emissions program by 2030.
COP 26 is expected to be a critical turning point in the collective undertaking to tackle the global climate crisis. Leaders of all lines should act fast to ensure the achievement of this vital goal by the end of the present decade. A total of 12 countries have committed to providing global forest financing of US$12 billion, around Rp 170 trillion, in the next four years. Besides this, 14 other countries have made financing commitments of $1.7 billion (Rp 24 trillion) to support traditional communities in their forest conservation efforts.
However, these commitments need to be controlled tightly and monitored continuously, because COP deals are basically non-legally binding agreements.
President Joko Widodo conveyed Indonesia’s commitment to cut emissions in his opening day speech. The President claimed that Indonesia had managed to reduce coverage of forest and peatland fires by 82 percent to reach the lowest rate of deforestation in 20 years.
He later revealed Indonesia’s commitment to accelerate the development of new and renewable energy and promote global partnerships.
To increase the world’s emissions reduction ambitions, COP26 expect countries whose 2030 emission targets do not fall within the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius to raise their emission targets no later than 2023. As such, the results of the global stocktaking are an important to determining which countries need to improve their emission targets.
The key to the success of the ambitious emissions target will highly depend on the readiness of resources, especially human resources.
According to several climate observers, with its target to reduce emissions by 29-41 percent by 2030 compared to emissions in 2010, Indonesia still does not meet the 1.5-degree limit and thus must develop more ambitious climate actions. President Joko Widodo described Indonesia’s efforts to handle the climate crisis, including planting 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024 as one of the actions it has launched. The other potential action is to protect and managing 15 million ha of peatland for a greater chance at reducing emissions.
The use of coal to fuel power plants should be halted and replaced by new and renewable energy, including solar, water and nuclear. It was continuing with the development of electric cars in a bid to replace fossil fuels, which produce high emissions.
Nonetheless, all these climate actions must be translated as more concrete, accurate, transparent and measured activities in the field that are monitored and reported periodically, and which involve the central government as well as administrations at the provincial, regency and municipal levels.
The key to the success of the ambitious emissions target will highly depend on the readiness of resources, especially human resources. Good leadership and governance are also an important requisite to realize these hopes as realities. Hopefully.
Doddy S Sukadri, Executive director of Yayasan Mitra Hijau; former climate change negotiator of for forest and land use
This article was translated by Aris Prawira.