Weakness in the fight against climate change

Felix Bob Ocitti,

Climate change is a global problem facing the human race from all parts of the world without exception.

This is due to human activity which has increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration resulting in a warmed atmosphere, ocean and land.

According to a 2021 scientific report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the first two decades of the 21st century (2001 – 2020) saw the average global surface temperature increase by 0.99 ohC higher than pre-industrial conditions (1850 – 1900), requiring an accelerated effort to reduce global emissions.

The need to accelerate this effort would suggest that each country is committed, and that efforts would be put in place to reduce emissions everywhere but even more in the highly industrialized economies where the emissions are the heaviest.

It also means that developed economies should commit to taking their fair share of mitigation measures, but therein lies the weakness in the fight against climate change.

To appreciate this, we must return to the key objective of the 1992 international treaty on the environment which established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Central to this treaty was the need to stabilize the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, and the first step to achieving this was the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 at COP3 which required developed countries to commit reduce their emissions according to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”.

More specifically, the protocol committed 37 industrialized countries and the European Community to reducing their emissions by an average of 5% compared to 1990 levels over the five years 2008-2012.

Although the United States did not ratify the protocol and Canada withdrew during the first commitment period (CP1), a compliance assessment shows that only 9 of the 36 countries that fully participated in the CP1 have emitted higher levels of GHGs compared to their commitment under the Kyoto Protocol. Protocol.

This result shows that the Kyoto Protocol has been largely successful due to its prescriptive nature of targets on large emitters since countries are more likely to promote green growth policies that reduce the emissions intensity of their product. domestic gross domestic product (GDP) when they ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but something changed in the second assessment period.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement (PA) was adopted by 196 parties at COP21 to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change and it followed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but this time expanded to reflect equity and respective capacities of countries in light of different national circumstances.

Most significant was the introduction of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which effectively removed the prescriptive actions imposed on the 37 parties to the Kyoto Protocol, allowing each of the 192 parties (as of October 2021) to the PA to determine their own goals. .

It’s no wonder that nearly all UN member states have embraced the PA in part for the ease with which countries have to set their targets.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) still accounts for more than 75% of global GHG emissions and about 60% of CO emissions2 emissions in 2020 came from the world’s five major industrialized economies, including China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan.

This is in addition to the fact that the European Union contributes at least 7% of the CO2 emissions. Africa as well as South and Central America had the least CO2 emissions in 2020, each contributing less than 4% of global emissions.

It is therefore obvious that the high-emitting countries targeted by the prescriptive approach of the Kyoto Protocol must now apply the NDC principle to set their own emissions targets.

The weaknesses of this approach were evident in the report presented at COP26 in Glasgow.

One of the weaknesses is climate finance, particularly for adaptation to address the worsening impacts of climate change in developing countries which follows the failure of developed countries to meet the target of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 for developing country Parties.

OECD estimates show that contributions from developed countries for this purpose amounted to $79.6 billion at the end of 2019.

Although the COP26 outcome urges developed countries to fully meet the $100 billion targets as a matter of urgency through 2025, it leaves the implementation and achievement of this target to the discretion of developed countries with the risk not to achieve the goal or at worst. better meet him very slowly.

This therefore means that since most NDCs are conditional of which funding is a part, especially for developing countries, the objective of meeting the aspiration of the PA will be hampered.

The other weakness is seen in countries’ countermeasures on the mitigation actions needed to accelerate a reduction in GHG emissions.

Initiatives such as the commitment to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040, the global commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 and to end forest loss and degradation land by 2030 are all countered by announcements from major carbon emitting countries.

For example, India announced that its net zero target was to be achieved by 2070, this followed an earlier announcement by China at the 2020 United Nations General Assembly pushing back its planned net zero target. to 2060, and Russia also intends to reach net zero by 2060. .

These deviations from the 2050 target of major carbon emitters are seen as a sure way of not achieving the PA’s aspiration in the fight against climate change, which is partly due to the voluntary nature of the NDCs .

These weaknesses testify to the injustice of the fight against climate change and imply that the parties must either increase their level of ambition between now and 2030, or exceed their expectations in their implementation.

I argue that outperformance is less likely than not due to the non-prescriptive and non-binding nature of the AP’s commitments to the parties. Moreover, developed and highly industrialized countries that emit more GHGs are failing to meet their fair share of commitment to a world where high emissions anywhere will affect communities everywhere.

I also argue that the Kyoto Protocol has shown that countries that have emissions commitments under it tend to emit less CO2 than those who have not committed to it and, therefore, strengthening the fight against climate change will require the kind of prescriptive but equitable obligations that we see under the Kyoto Protocol.

Felix Bob Ocitti is Director of Operations and Compliance at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU)

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