As I prepare to go to COP27 as a Hong Kong Youth Delegate selected by CarbonCare InnoLab (CCIL), I am reflecting on what I want to see achieved from what continues to be one of the most important conferences in the world when it comes to the climate emergency. Our work is only just beginning.
The Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted at COP26 and some progress has been made. A number of countries have indeed committed to phasing out coal and accelerating the transition toward electric vehicles. While it is heartening to see international institutions working towards decarbonization, the reality is we are still waiting for the actual implementation details.
My generation is eager to see more ambitious and effective action to keep our 1.5-degree target alive, not just pledges. As COP27 approaches, I am desperate to see both the governments and the business world moving from promises to actions to avoid irreversible climate crises. I would like to raise three issues in particular that need immediate attention before it is too late.
1) Better progress on loss and damage agenda
Loss and damage refers to the economic and non-economic losses associated with intensifying climate issues, including homeland destruction and biodiversity loss. According to a report published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), natural disasters are responsible for the death of 115 people per day and causing USD 202 million in economic losses daily. This issue has remained unresolved, mainly due to countries’ reluctance to contribute part of their financial reserves to those of developing countries.
COP27 is taking place in Egypt, an African country currently facing climate catastrophes such as droughts and rising sea levels- there should be no excuse for stakeholders not to include loss and damage in their agenda. Parties and international organizations should take this opportunity to push forward the global commitments on loss and damage finance. This should be a topic discussed not only by developing nations but also by developed ones, as they are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
In addition to the contribution of governments, multinational banks should also take part in accelerating funding for the increasingly severe climate change impacts happening to the vulnerable populations, at which the economic cost is estimated to be between $1 and 1.8 trillion by 2050 in developing countries if no adaptation or precaution are implemented in time. This is true for places like Hong Kong, where research by Climate Central shows that 61% of the city’s residential area will be covered by sea level if the global temperature rise reaches 3 degrees Celsius. Let’s be clear: we are not far from there. Vulnerable, coastal nations might be the first to confront these issues, but they will affect the whole planet eventually. The unimaginable human suffering that is coming due to the consequences of climate change should be the urgency to call on all stakeholders to contribute to loss and damage finance, and COP27 can really set the stage here.
2) More ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs)
The NDCs submitted during COP26 revealed that the existing effort of all governments combined can only limit global warming to a level of 2.4 degrees Celsius, which is far from the 1.5 degrees Celsius of the Paris temperature limit. And that’s only IF all the committed countries follow through on their NDC pledges. As of 24 October 2022, only 21 countries out of 193 parties to the Paris Agreement have submitted an update on NDCs, with only 15% of global emissions covered by the new contributions. COP27 is where international collaboration should take place, where countries can learn from each other and make improvements on national policies. No one can escape the global climate emergency. Making more aggressive goals is one thing; finding solutions to actually achieve these goals will be where the substance lies.
I hope to see global institutions promise to bring down their greenhouse gas emissions and hold themselves accountable at COP27, as well as contribute to the Global Climate Fund that will support global climate-resilient projects. NB: we need 10 times more than the current commitment to reach the target of USD 100 billion. We can only offer a healthy, safe future to the next generation of policymakers join forces to work toward sustainability.
3) A path towards a smarter carbon market
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement laid the foundation for governments to trade carbon with one another to achieve their national climate plans. This is a big deal. The initial intention of this was to incentivize countries to commit to higher decarbonization targets, since theoretically, they are able to cut emissions at a lower cost by using the carbon market mechanism. Yet, if this framework is not utilized properly (double-counting or failing to address additionality), it might become an excuse for nations not to turn down emission levels as they can simply purchase carbon from somewhere else.
Both the private sector and government officials are waiting to see what the actual implementation of Article 6 looks like, and we expect more concrete details after COP27. It is understandable that countries are moving towards decarbonization at different paces. The rules of the carbon market mapped out in Article 6 can be a solution, but we should be cautious that it does not become another loophole in climate commitments. Policymakers’ universal goal is to cut emissions while hastening the transformation of sustainable cities and economies, and this should never be compromised.
Although efforts and commitments have been made in previous years, our world is still nowhere near on track for a sustainable, equitable future. The numerous global climate disasters that have already taken place this year from Northern American droughts to pan-European forest fires to extreme flooding in Pakistan have repeatedly underlined how urgently we need to adopt more aggressive and concrete climate actions. As we gear up for COP27 this November, my hope is that this international climate change conference can be a turning point in changing pledges into reality.
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