Dubai will host the Conference of Parties (COP 28) from 30 Nov until 12 Dec 2023. The international community would be reflecting on adding certain policy decisions on climate change. Just like similar previous meetings, the discussion is likely to revolve around three main aspects.
How much funds must or voluntarily be contributed by the rich and poor countries. Secondly, which specific areas would get attention with regards to allocation of funds, and through which channels the money would be disbursed. Climate financing will remain the most intriguing dimension in this year’s COP as well.
What is the most pressing agenda item right now facing a world divided on international climate negotiations on various issues? Is it the fact that the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases hit a record high last year, with ‘no end in sight’? That might be a matter of grave concern, but the focus would be on dealing with the Loss and Damage Fund (LDF).
The Global South comprising the developing countries argue for ‘shared but differentiated responsibility’ as per Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration of 1992. On the other hand, the Global North spearheaded by the US, has simply refused to talk about ‘liability’ or ‘compensation.’ At the most, taking a lead from Principle 6 of the Rio Declaration, the developed world would be willing to extend support to only the LDCs while overlooking some middle-income countries such as Pakistan that are most affected by climate change. Hence, in their bid to find a middle way, monetary contributions to the LDF would be on a voluntary basis, thereby, effectively doing away with any obligatory contributions. Hence, questions on allocation, governance, funding scale, and eligibility criteria remain elusive.
Secondly, COP 28, inter alia, is expected to take stock of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - a subject that the world has been hearing since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Moreover, the still-to-be-decided details of the Paris Agreement such as the means of implementation, particularly financial, are also expected to be discussed to fill the ‘well-known gaps’ along with putting the LDF in operation through some concrete steps.
The Paris Agreement is a classic example to quote if anyone is to examine the effectiveness of previous COPs. The Paris Agreement, a legally binding International Treaty on climate change, was adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in 2015 and entered into force in 2016. To begin with, it was this Agreement that had reaffirmed that developed countries should take the lead in providing financial assistance to countries that were less endowed and more vulnerable. The figures are mind-boggling. Developing countries require an estimated amount of $ 434 billion per year to adapt to climate change.
An important goal of this landmark Agreement was to hold ‘the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’ while pursuing efforts ‘to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’ presumably by the end of this century. The world may not have to wait till ‘the end of the century’ to experience the temperature breaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Ironically, according to an estimate made in May by the World Meteorological Society, planet Earth would witness this ‘breach’ in 2027. Perhaps COP 28 would take this disturbing news seriously and change the deadline or, for that matter, change the threshold accordingly.
The Pakistan delegation for COP 28 would be a little comfortable this time to sit and watch the proceedings as it could proudly inform the august gathering that the country has finally penned its first-ever National Adaptation Plan (NAP) along with issuing a National Climate Financial Strategy (NCFS) to reorient the portfolios of key national institutions for climate finance. As such, NAP recommends for an all-inclusive evidence-based decision-making while emphasising the need to act locally. Perhaps, the delegation would not mention that NAP, covering the period till 2030, should have been prepared somewhere in 2012 to align Pakistan with climate adaptation frameworks. Following the principle of ‘better late than never’, the delegation may get away with the inordinate delay.
However, to plead the case on the pledges made on the floods in Pakistan, the delegation must provide reasons for not proposing the requisite corresponding projects to receive the funds. During his address at the UNGA’s recent session, among other things, PM Kakar made a remark on this matter albeit in passing. To make life of the next government a little more difficult, the caretaker set-up has just committed to IMF to make all future investments including those under SIFC ‘completely climate resilient’.
A recent report by the UNICEF has urged the world to include children’s rights in the LDF’s governance and decision- making process, highlighting that around 739 million children are presently exposed to high or extremely high-water scarcity, mostly in low and middle-income countries. Looking at its past record, COP 28 might mention UNICEF’s concerns if not make promises to ‘look into’ the possibility of acceding to the latter’s recommendation in COP 29. Time to share with you a thought …. just a thought…. totally unrelated to the subject at hand…!!
Going by PM Netanyahu’s determined stand on teaching a life-time lesson to those who ‘do not have the right to exist’, the war between Hamas and Israel will probably still be on when the COP 28 delegates use the ‘Meditation Rooms’ set up in Dubai - as part of its elaborate arrangements for the mega event. The fact that the geopolitical climate is rapidly changing in the neighbourhood in Gaza, with the loss of over 12,000 Palestinians, might not interest the international community. Isn’t it surprising that the world is more interested in saving planet Earth from the adverse effects of climate change than to save human beings from perishing? Is it true that a carbon controlled, climatically viable world is more important than the best of the best creation of Almighty God? Clearly, the concept of ‘humanity’ has lost its meaning and relevance…!!!
Najm us Saqib
The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at najmussaqib email@example.com