From Monday, the sea-side, port city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, will host over 45,000 registered participants as part of the 27th edition of the UN-Conference of Parties (UN-COP). The participants include representatives of the 195 member-countries of the UN-COP, business persons, scientists, and members of indigenous and local communities and activists.
The UN-COPs, over the decades, have burgeoned into a colossal networking event where, under the umbrella of a simmering climate crisis, various interest-groups come away after protracted negotiations with little more than a promise to meet the following year at a new venue. The two-week long jamboree has multiple sub-events, protests and theme-pavilions that begin with a bang, such as with a World Leader’s summit.
The event sees several heads of state deliver statements on the need to ensure that carbon emissions don’t heat the globe beyond its sustainable limits. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the 26th edition of the COP in Glasgow, Scotland, committed to India becoming net-zero, or in effect carbon neutral, by 2070. It is unclear if he will be at Sharm-El-Sheikh but U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are expected to be present.
From here on, the summit — on the surface — is muted but is buzzing with activity underneath when various negotiating teams, representing countries, business groups and think tanks congregate into smaller groups, lay out draft text agreements and wage semantic wars over commas and semicolons. The main founding document is now the 2015 Paris Agreement that commits countries to keep temperatures from rising over 2°C by the end of the century and as far as possible below 1.5°C.
This guiding principle results in an annual agreement, the latest being the Glasgow Climate Pact — an assemblage of various Articles and sub-articles — that outlines the responsibilities of every country and how they propose to take action on doing their bit to curtail carbon emissions. As has now become a pattern in most COPs, the negotiations build to a crescendo where concerns are aired about an impasse and then, the President of the COP — this time, it will be Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — will push the deadline by a few hours and then a document, flush with incremental gains, is conjured up when the gavel comes down.
The latest COP, Mr. Shoukry has said, will be an ‘Implementation COP’. “This means the full and faithful implementation of all the provisions of the Paris Agreement, along with pursuing even more ambitious NDCs if we are to keep the temperature goal within reach and avert further negative impacts. It further means pursuing a transformative action agenda aimed at moving from pledges to actions on the ground.,” he said in a press statement. NDCs, or Nationally Determined Contributions, are a country’s intent — but not binding or mandatory — towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. This August, the Union Cabinet approved an update to India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which is a formal communication to the UN, spelling out steps to be taken by the country towards keeping global temperatures from rising beyond 2°C by the end of the century.
India has updated its NDC of 2015 by committing to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030, from the 2005 level, achieving 50% cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030 and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by adding forest and tree cover by 2030. However, unlike in the 2015 version, the latest NDC also underlines India’s commitment to “..mobilise domestic and new & additional funds from developed countries..” to, primarily, access and implement clean energy technology so that it can wean away from fossil fuel energy sources, over time without comprising on developmental needs.
Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, who will be leading the Indian delegation to COP-27, has said India -like in previous years –will continue to press developed countries into making good their long-standing, unfulfilled commitment to deliver $100 billion a year of climate finance by 2020 and every year thereafter through till 2025. There is yet no definition on what constitutes ‘climate finance’ and whether it includes both loans and grants and India, he said, would press for more transparency as well as institutional mechanisms to make these funds available to developing countries as well as those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.