Will COP26 climate change initiative heal the world?

According to the National Geographic, climate change is still the greatest threat to human health as polluted air, rising temperatures and other infectious diseases rage. In this report, KEHINDE OSASONA revisits the menace and global leaders’ stance at the recently concluded COP 26 held in Glasgow, Scotland.

A post-mortem

Globally, the after-effects of some natural disasters like steady rise in average temperatures, intense wildfires, hurricanes, extreme heat, droughts, dehydration and climate-related disasters have plunged the globe and its inhabitants into perpetual health risks.

While stressing that the sudden climate change posed, the director-general, World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement that the risks posed by climate change could dwarf those of any single disease.

Toeing the same line, sometime September, it was learnt that more than 200 medical journals were quoted as saying that a global increase of 1.5 degree centigrade above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health, saying it would be impossible to reverse. They have therefore urged world leaders to act.

As a way of meeting the challenges of global warming, therefore, last month, world leaders converged on Glasgow at the COP26 Leaders Summit to discuss climate change and how to cushion consequential effects.

Emissions of all forms were at the centre of discourse, and it was collectively resolved that countries of the world should strive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

 Sadly, the UN conference, which is aimed at forging an agreement to curb carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) below pre-industrial levels, did not have in attendance some critical stakeholders and countries with the worst emission records.

The world’s biggest emitters, China, with 11 per cent contribution to global warming, and Russia did not attend the summit in person,

World leaders’ pledge

While speaking at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, US President, Joe Biden, spoke about the long-term US strategy, which was released by his administration to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

According to Biden, it was filed in compliance with the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“None of us can escape the worst that is yet to come if we fail to seize this moment,” he said.

In his submission, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a unified effort to curb climate change based on three values: ambition, solidarity and trust.

He urged the world’s “largest emitters” to boost their plans to slash carbon pollution during the crunch two-week summit.  

“The key over the next 15 days at this COP is that the largest emitters, whose national strategies do not align with our objective of 1.5° Celsius of warming, to raise their ambition. That’s the only way of making our strategy credible again,” Macron was quoted as telling other world leaders. 

In his remarks, Britain Boris Johnson suggested that living on an ever-warming Earth was like fictional secret agent James Bond being strapped to a bomb that is capable of destroying the planet. 

“A red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a detonation that will end human life as we know it, and we are roughly in the same position, my fellow global leaders, as James Bond today. Except that the tragedy is this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real,” he said.

According to Johnson, the world has already warmed 1.1°C. Current projections based on planned emissions cuts over the next decade are for it to hit 2.7°C by the year 2100.  

Johnson told the summit that humanity had run down the clock when it comes to climate change, and the time for action is now. He pointed out that the more than 130 world leaders who gathered in Glasgow had an average age of over 60, while the generations most harmed by climate change aren’t yet born.

He, therefore, called for the end of coal-fired power plants and gasoline-powered cars along with a huge transfer of cash from rich nations to poor to help them switch to greener economies and adapt to worsening climate impacts.

At the conference, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Mordi announced 2070 as the target date for reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

The 2070 date, two decades after, surpasses time scientists say is needed to avert catastrophic climate impacts.

But in his argument in support of the date, Modi noted that India accounts for 17 percent of the world’s population but just 5 percent of global emissions.

Buhari’s warnings

Not left out of the deliberations, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari sounded a note of warning to cheating nations, saying Africa can no longer be cheated, oppressed and lied to by rich nations.

He expressed worry that despite the continent almost being non-emitters, responsible for a mere five per cent of global emissions, the developed countries failed to provide $100 billion yearly promised to developing countries.

 Buhari said Africa has had enough of the talk from rich nations, adding that “it’s high time they walked their talk.”

The Nigerian president also expressed disappointment that some of the world’s biggest emitters China and Russia did not attend the Summit.

A statement by the president’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu indicated that, “President Buhari’s speech which centred on a number of issues agitating Africa and the developing countries, criticised the rich countries, the major emitters which brought the world’s climate to this sorry state for making promises toward climate finance that till date, have remained hollow.

“The president told world leaders that the goal of transitioning from fossil fuel to clean energy, reaching a Net zero ambition for green house emission would require critical infrastructure to be in place in developing countries.”

It added, “Parties to the Paris Agreement are expected to transition from fossil fuel to clean energy and reach a Net Zero ambition for greenhouse gases emission.

“We agree that Net Zero ambition can lead to economic transformation across all sectors. It is a good ambition, but it requires critical infrastructure in place, including for renewable energy. Therefore, in Nigeria, it will take us longer to get to Net Zero.”

Making a case for financial support, President Buhari sAID attaining national and global climate change goals would require adequate and sustained technical and financial support to developing countries.

According to the statement, “He added that greater efforts should be channeled towards assisting developing countries to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) commitments through the pledges made by the developed countries to provide at least $100 billion yearly.

“The Nigerian leader noted that easier access to climate finance had become imperative because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which really battered the economies of developing countries.

“The USD 100 billion every year to developing countries signed onto from the Paris 2016 climate change accords, as a promise made by the developed countries, has so far proved to be hollow.”

Shehu said without coming out to bluntly say so, Buhari pointed out the hypocrisy of the developed world for imposing standards that would clearly stunt development in developing countries.

“May I recall that the phenomenal growth of industrial economies has been driven by access to stable and abundant supply of relatively cheap energy.”

As the globe renewed their commitments towards net-zero emission by 2050, it remains to be seen how successive administrations and policies suffice.Show quoted text