Hope From COP

Despite general frustration with COP 26, there are some milestones achieved, some targets that are worth looking forward to and some hope that future COPs will moving in the right direction. To have expected an exceptionally ambitious plan to address climate change would have been naïve particularly as it would have meant considerable disruption to normal life.

Perhaps the four developments that are worth considering are the commitment to deforestation, the setting up of a fund for developing countries to mitigate climate change, India’s commitment to source half of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources and China offering to work with USA to deal with climate crises.

India is one of the main countries along with China and USA leading the world pollution table. Both China and India are continuing to rely on coal significantly. Both have also signalled to change from coal and other fossil fuels to non-fossil sources. India has a growing population and its middle class base in expanding with needs such as cars, refrigerators, mobile phones and other high tech equipment. It is also developing economically. India has a significant challenge to balance the needs and appetite of its population for energy hungry technology and reduce carbon and methane emissions on the other hand.

Unlike western countries where energy needs have reached near peak point, India’s needs are on the up. Developed countries have to change their energy needs from carbon dependency to non-carbon fuels. India cannot just ditch all fossil sourced energy and invest in non-Carbon energy sources. The expense would mean giving up on development or delaying it significantly.

Hence Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to ensure that half of India’s energy will be sourced from non-Carbon fuel by 2030 is significant. This will be around 500 gigawatts. The sheer scale of this new energy sources will make it cheaper all around for the world. It is quite possible that as this alternative fuel sources become cheaper, India will reach its target much sooner and commit to a greater percentage of non-carbon energy by 2030. Cheaper non carbon energy will encourage other countries, including developed countries to invest in non-fossil sourced energy. Currently it is still expensive. It needs exponential increase in numbers.

India has further committed to reduce its total carbon emissions by 1 Billion tones. This is a significant target. Although PM Modi also said that India will reach net zero by 2070 which disappointed many. There is hope that once the escalation to renewable energy takes place, the 2070 target will be reviewed.

India however refused to agree to the para to phase out coal. India along with Russia and China are still dependent on coal. The para was weakened to read ‘phase down’. Nevertheless it is moving in the right direction.

Similarly the setting up of a larger fund for developing countries to change to non-fossil fuels and a fund for small Islands is a step towards the start of a serious drive to assist countries highly dependent on fossil fuels to transfer to other energy sources and become self-sufficient. The Fund is likely to grow as more countries chip in and current developed countries reach deeper into their pockets.

Small Islands facing extinction with rising oceans and temperatures however came out with a punitive lifeline. A mere 2 million has been pledged to them. It is likely to increase.

As significant is the commitment to deforestation. Deforestation has been a major cause of carbon emissions and climate change. Countries such as Brazil and Russia have significant forests. There are many smaller countries in South America, Africa and South East Asia who have large forests but also need land for farming as well as living space for their population. In a competitive world they try and balance their budgets with developing whatever resources they can. A commitment to stop deforestation with appropriate compensation will encourage many countries to scale down encroaching on forests.

ALSO READ: Can Glasgow Summit COPe With Climate Crisis?

The hand of friendship by China to work with USA is another welcome development. Both countries have faced significant consequences of the climate change. China has put the United States in a spot to some extent by this offer. Instead of accusing China of damaging the climate, the USA can cooperate to set achievable targets.

Critics say that the agreements fall far short of efforts needed to keep temperature rise to 1.5° C by end of century. Based on the current agreement, the temperature will probably rise by 2.4 leading the world towards disaster. Critics say that the solutions agreed do not rise to the challenge. This may well be, but the agreements in themselves are a step in the right direction.

The world economy has been dependent on fossil fuel for over a century if not more. The corporations in control of production cannot change overnight without significant damage to economy and jobs. However they feel the heat of public opinion and know that they cannot carry on as usual. COP26 has shown that the tide is beginning to change and both developed countries and Transnationals are beginning to give undertakings to be responsive to reduce Carbon and Methane emissions.

If the pressure continues and the damaging consequences of climate change keep on recurring, within a year or two, the atmosphere will change. More dramatic commitments will be made either in COP27 or by COP28. It also gives enough time for countries and the corporate sector to begin restructure their investments, productions, sourcing etc to be compliant with change to reduce temperature rises. Both developed countries and corporations know that the mood of the public has changed and will not tolerate their intransigence.

A subtext of COP26 was that the Britain under the current Prime Minister is not much trusted around the world. UK itself is investing in a new coal mine. It has cut overseas aid thus depriving poorer countries even further of means to cope with climate change. Britain further failed to join an alliance to phase out oil and gas. To many it seemed the United Kingdom was asking others to commit to targets that it wasn’t interested itself to adopt. Not surprisingly, the largest emitters have postponed their commitment to another day. Its politics.

Nevertheless COP26 gives hope. It has shown that unlike the Paris Agreement where grand gestures and ambitions were made, the mood now is to get down to business. The polluters know they cannot ignore public opinion or media cacophony on climate. They know the science is against them and they have no answers to the growing evidence that has been finding its way into headlines. They know that the Paris Agreement is not something they can ignore. If the Paris Agreement set targets, the Glasgow COP26 has started the journey on the path.

Can Glasgow Summit COPe With Climate Crisis?

A UN-sponsored marathon conference to tackle the global climate crisis is due to being the British city of Glasgow, the coming Sunday (31 October) and will continue till 12 November. The world leaders will meet in the so-called last-ditch effort to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, besides considering plans to how to stop burning fossil fuels, stabilise global temperatures and share money to adapt to increasingly extreme weather.

The global leaders signed up the Paris Agreement in 2015 — with a supposedly non-binding target to keep warming well below 2 C above pre-industrial temperatures, and ideally 1.5 C — yet most of the participating countries continue to burn fossil fuels and chop down trees at rates incompatible with that goal.

With the effects of climate change visible in both rich and poor countries alike, the leaders are meeting for what analysts expect to be the most meaningful conference since that pledge. Climate change has shot up the political agenda amid deadly weather extremes and mass public protest, and leaders of several polluting countries have pledged to decarbonise their economies by the middle of the century.

Summit’s Agenda

The world leaders got to choose how fast their country will cut emissions Under the Paris Agreement, besides agreeing to update their action plans for doing so every five years. But in reality just weeks before the summit, big emitters like China, India and Saudi Arabia are yet to submit new plans.

Reportedly UK, which is co-hosting the summit with Italy, has pressured countries to submit new plans and is pushing for concrete deals that would help reach those targets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on world leaders to deliver bold commitments on “coal, cars, cash and trees.”

The UK is pushing for a treaty that would “consign coal to history” and has proposed a deadline of 2040 to stop selling combustion engine cars. It also wants to put more money into stopping deforestation.

According to the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) COP26 will work towards four goals: Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise assured finance to help developing and under-developed countries to attain emission cuts, and work together to deliver to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

On the really big question of keeping the 1.5C temperature threshold within reach, the likelihood is that a significant gap will remain even after Glasgow. Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, those countries that have used fossil fuels the most over the past two centuries – the US and from Europe – accept they will make the bigger cuts in the short term. The larger developing nations that are now the biggest source of CO2 – chiefly China – accept they will make the bigger cuts in the longer term.

The environmentalist and experts say that we can very easily understand the colossal and disastrous results of the climate change, if we can observe the following four weather changes, which have been caused by the increasing global temperature due to the emission of CO2 and other poisonous gases like methane into the atmosphere: Hotter and longer heat waves, more persistent droughts, more fuel for wildfires, and more extreme rainfall events are the resultant climate change vagaries.

Meanwhile, an interesting report by the US intelligence agency’s assessment of climate change has come out and as per the report, India and Pakistan are among the 11 highly vulnerable countries in terms of their ability to prepare for as well as respond to the environmental and social impact of climate change. The first-ever US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the issue of climate change has been published, and it adds that India along with China will be crucial in determining the trajectory at which there is a rise in global temperatures. On the other hand, the report has downplayed the role that the Western world has played in the problem of climate change. Further the report has warned that the possibility of geopolitical tensions and the risk to US national security are present due to global warming in the run up to 2040.

Expectations From Summit

In another development before the summit, India has said that it will raise the topic of compensation to developing nations for the losses caused by climate disasters. The Indian environment ministry said that India stands with other low-income and developing nations on the matter and the compensation clause will be negotiated at the upcoming climate summit.

India has reiterated that the countries responsible for climate change should finance what they have committed to and make technology available at an affordable cost. It is also confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will put forward the Indian stand at the summit

Meanwhile, reports say that Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International has warned against efforts by countries and corporations at the forthcoming talks in Glasgow to “green wash” their on-going pollution of the planet.

By doing so, governments would “give that kind of hope and confidence to their people that they got this and that they’re willing to do things that their corporate interests don’t want them to do,” she added.

Morgan pointed to leaked documents showing how countries such as Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are apparently trying to water down an upcoming UN science panel report on global warming as evidence of the way in which some governments’ public support for climate action is undermined by their efforts behind closed doors.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace indicate how those countries wanted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to remove references to the need to shut down coal-fired power stations, reduce meat consumption and focus on actual emissions cuts rather than ways to capture carbon already released into the atmosphere.

Various outcomes of the Glasgow Summit in view of the non-adherence to the goals of the Paris Agreement are being predicted. Yet, barring a complete collapse in the talks, there are likely to be a range of tangible outcomes. It’s expected that more countries will announce they are moving away from using coal for energy, and more nations may probably sign up to curb methane emissions.

There is only a moral pressure to improve your offer, and a degree of embarrassment if a country doesn’t step up to the mark. Glasgow will reveal whether this approach actually works.

As Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena has put it succinctly and wisely in a recent speech, tackling climate requires a great deal of fortitude, imagination, hope and leadership. If western leaders listen, engage and act decisively on what science demands of them, there is still time to make COP26 the success it desperately needs to be.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

Weekly Update: ModiVac Certificate; Promiseland COP26

ArunBhai Shah was fully armed with all paperwork to get into the UK on a visit. He had his passport, visa, invitation and a Covid Vaccination certificate. Everything was fine according to the immigration officer. Except the Covid certificate. Her Majesty’s Border immigration officer (IO) looked puzzled at the certificate and asked Mr Shah if this was his certificate.

‘Of course sir,’ Mr Shah replied. Not satisfied, officer said, ‘It has your name, but the picture on the certificate does not look like you. You are only 36 and this picture looks like your grandfather or father.’ Oh, said Mr Shah proudly, ‘that is Mr Modi’.

‘Modi?’ asked immigration officer. ‘Why have you got someone else’s certificate and your name on it? Is this gentleman part of your team? Where is he?’ Mr Shah was confused. He is a die-hard Modi fan, Mr Shah is a Gujarati and is nationalist about everything that comes from Gujarat. He is dead proud of Mr Modi, the PM. How dare the officer not know Mr Modi whose party has spent millions to reach the number of followers that Trump had on Twitter.

‘Mr Modi, sir is our Prime Minister!’ said Mr Shah some what irritated that this English immigration officer did not know who the great man was.’ If you see TV or newspapers, you will know.’

Immigration Officer, ‘No need to get irritated Mr Shah, but why have you got your Prime Minister’s Covid Certificate and put your name on that?’

‘He is our PM and it is under him that the Covid vaccination programme was done in India. So all Covid certificates have a picture and we are very grateful.’

‘But you are a democratic country, isn’t the programme under the Government? We don’t have picture of Boris Johnson on our certificates and we haven’t seen pictures of any other world leaders on any Covid certificates. Even Mr Xi does not put his picture on certificates of Chinese. Was this funded by Mr Modi’?

‘No, I paid for vaccination and certificate sir.’

‘Ok. Not to worry. Just take a seat please’. Off went the immigration officer to his superior, quite unconvinced.

‘Dave,’ he said to his superior, ‘There is a chap here form India with a Covid certificate with his name but the picture of who he calls is his Prime Minister. It doesn’t make sense to me, can it be a forgery?’

‘Oh don’t start. I have nearly a plane load of people sitting in the interview room all with the picture of the same man. They say he is their Prime Minister. I haven’t seen that before. Not China, Putin or even tin pot countries have done that. I don’t get it. Must be a forgery. Sheena is on to the Home Office who are on the Foreign Office. Let’s wait see what they say, I’ve stopped the interview for the time being,’ said immigration officer Peter’s superior, Dave.

Meanwhile, Mr Shah was getting annoyed and agitated. How come they don’t know Modiji and why are they surprised that his picture is on the certificate. After all, without Modiji, no one would have got a vaccine.

Three hours later and no pani puri or channa bhatura, the senior immigration officer came back. And told his staff to let them all through. ‘Just check the names.’

Peter the immigration officer asked Dave the senior officer. ‘So what’s the story?’

‘Well Foreign Office called the High Commissioner who made some enquiries and said that yes although the tax payer pays some of the costs and the patient also pays, the Prime Minister has seen this as a great opportunity to promote himself. He is apparently having some problems in the popularity stakes. There is a farmers’ dispute that has dented his standing and he has failed to win a couple of regional elections. So he wants to make people believe that he made and delivered the treatment.’

‘Wow, I tell you if Boris does that, I am personally going to rip the certificate in front of him. Bit desperate isn’t it?’ Said Peter. Back at the desk, ‘Mr Shah, our apologies. Have a good stay in United Kingdom and thank your Prime Minister.’

ArunBhai Shah was happy as can be. The British officer even said ‘Thank the Prime Minister’. I will personally write to Modiji and tell him world appreciates what he has done. No other PM would have allowed vaccination! Modi ji ki jai jai, Corona ki hai hai.

No Xi, No Putin, So Modi Will Save COP26

The great Boris who promised a British version of Disneyland for everyone after Brexit, is now keen for the world climate summit COP26 to be ‘a whopping’ (his favourite word) success and promise a perfect atmosphere where fossil fuel and coal can be used without any danger to the climate. Unfortunately, President Xi and Putin who believe in delivering on their word, decided to miss the great world climate jamboree at Glasgow. But Boris is saved by no other than fellow democrat and show biz PM, our own superstar Narendra Modi ji who had promised ₹15 lakh in every Indian’s account and a job waiting for all yet to be born Indians. It is easy to see what COP26 will be like.

Neither Boris nor Modi has ever shied from fulfilling the ordinary voter’s dream call. No referendum needed. If ten citizens dream up their version of the perfect world, it will be announced. No problems. The Government will be committed to it.

Committing and delivering are two different ministerial departments both in UK and India. Fulfilling a dream by announcing its ambition from the steps of Downing Street or PM house (India) is not same as delivering it. In both democracies, there are more elections to come and someone else (new PM) can have the headache of delivery if they want. The thick wall between Dept of Hope and Dept of Reality is yet impenetrable in both countries.

So COP26 will be a great success by spin and plans that make a rainbow look dull. While Boris is committed to building a new coal plant, refuse to put Sellotape or even Blu Tack on houses leaking heat, he is also going to give the speech of his life on how within a few years, every one’s lung will have 100% oxygen without any soot in it.

There may be something in it. Many Covid patients, and patients with pneumonia or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, usually end up getting 100% Oxygen in the Intensive Care Unit through an Oxygen cylinder. If everyone’s lung gets clogged with Carbon and everyone gets pneumonia because heating becomes too expensive to afford, then they can all carry 100% Oxygen around.

What will Modi ji Promise? There are rumours that by the year that India becomes Jagat Guru, i.e the Oxbridge of the world, he will have net zero carbon in India. Well there are some milestones to achieve. He didn’t say all of India will be net zero. With leadership of world’s most polluted cities, net zero is a tall order. Unless like note bandi, there will be overnight order at 00.01 on some day after COP26 that no one is to use petrol, gas or diesel. Even Modi ji won’t dare do that, tough as he is in seeing the aam aadmi suffer and still vote for him. So net zero addicts can trek to the Himalayas in India.

Secondly, the Jagat Guru time is a few centuries in the future when the rest of the world collapses and Indian scholars stop copying western ideology but put ‘made in India’ on it. So there is in fact a long time before net zero carbon is to be delivered.

The rest of COP26 will no doubt remain mesmerised as most British are in UK with Boris, despite him competing with Bolsonaro and Trump for the highest Covid deaths. Masochism is an English trait. And the conference will no doubt be in awe of Modiji in his holy attire and announcement of climate nirvana through yoga.

Putin and Xi know that if they go, Boris and others will try and blame them for bringing the world to this disaster while they (Boris and Biden) will save it. Not withstanding that the industrial revolution started in good old Britain and the fact that Britain has probably been responsible for more than 50% carbon in the climate over the centuries. Both Xi and Putin will be blamed even in their absence but they can watch the circus from home. Even oil dependent Saudi Arabia is going to announce it will be net zero by 2060. Perhaps that’s when its oil will dry up. COP26 is going to be a great PromiseLand.