Ministers of 200 nations got together for the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice to form a rulebook to implement the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement to fight climate change. What's incredible is for the first time 200 nations will follow a uniform, transparent framework to report and account for their emission cut targets when the deal comes to force in 2020. They will have to report emission levels and cuts every two years starting 2024.
That in itself is a big achievement.
However, given the rate at which climate change is accelerating, it leaves one wondering if reporting targets would suffice, if there is not enough intent to take steps for mitigation of emissions. What was clear was the developing countries including India took a stand that was in line with the spirit of the Paris Agreement.
Studies have suggested that the impact of climate change will increase and spare no part of the world. It will particularly badly hit South Asia if no steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gases. Report 'Assessing the Costs of Climate Change and Adaptation in South Asia' by Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicts that by 2050, the South Asian economy will lose an average 1.8 per cent of its gross domestic product, rising to 8.8 per cent by 2100 from extreme weather events such as floods and droughts caused by climate change.
In spite of this, the oil-rich nations such as US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait prevented the adoption of the findings and recommendations of the UN climate science panel Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that calls for countries to reduce their carbon emissions to limit the impact of temperature increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In fact, the developed countries voiced their unwillingness to increase their financial contributions on climate finance. Under the Paris Agreement, 18 developed countries had committed 100 billion to the developing countries from 2020 to help them mitigate and adapt to the risks posed by climate change. Developing countries including India felt this figure was too little to meet the climate-loss needs. Also, there was no clear outline how these countries will mobilise the funds.
Another main concern of India from the 1990s has been equity, which means the responsibility of the countries to take steps to mitigate climate change should be in proportion to their economic status. The developed countries, who are anyways the main culprit for causing climate change, have the technology, resources and the capacity to mitigate it and hence, they should take more responsibility than the developing countries. India and many other developing countries felt that the principle of differential responsibility that should be a part of the agreement was largely missing.
In fact, developing countries also felt that the uniform mechanism for emissions accounting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a costly affair. Collecting and reporting this data and the technical expertise it requires is a very extensive and expensive exercise and would put additional burden on developing country like ours. Developing countries though have got the flexibility of time to publish their national inventory of emissions according to their capacity and have also got the leeway to submit not as much detailed data as the developed world.
Forming a rulebook in itself is no mean feat but without an overarching climate vision that leaves open the implementation on the countries' intent, Katowice might do too little to have any actual impact on the ground.