COP27: Don’t cop out from action

By Avinash Chanchal

This year COP27 is not taking place in a vacuum. Climate change is no longer a future threat. It has already reached our homes, and it’s rapidly getting worse. We are living in the midst of a climate crisis. In recent years, we have witnessed some of the worst extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods, heatwaves, and drought.

The latest series of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports clearly state that climate change is already causing widespread losses and damages to nature and people. The reports revealed that, out of every ten people, four are living in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change. Between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from extreme climatic events such as floods, droughts, and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions compared to regions with very low vulnerability. The reports also warned us that failing to keep the temperature below the 1.5°C warming limit will worsen the frequency, intensity, and severity of droughts, floods, and heatwaves, and continued sea level rise will increase risks to food security, livelihood opportunities, health, and climate-related mortality. 

We have now entered a critical decade, and the next 10 years are going to be crucial to cutting down fossil fuel emissions, protecting our biodiversity, and preparing for the climate crisis we can’t prevent. The science is very clear on this—we can’t exceed the warming limit of 1.5 °C; crossing it will further worsen the climate crisis, and it will be much more difficult for communities to adapt to its devastating impacts.

However, there are many reports, including those from the IPCC, that state that the current Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) plans by governments are not going to be enough to keep the global temperature below the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C warming limit. It is now more evident than ever that incremental climate actions are not doing enough to fight climate change. 

We must effect transformational systemic changes in our socio-economic system. The impact of climate change is devastating and to tackle this we need better policies and deeper understanding of systemic transformation. There is an urgent need to transform sectors like energy, transport, agriculture, food, land use etc.

It is important to understand that climate change impacts the most vulnerable, marginalised, and underprivileged groups, and there is a need to put them at the centre of our adaptation policies. Climate change is increasingly driving displacement in the global south. Such displacement is not only causing economic and property losses but also losses in life, health, cultural heritage, sense of belonging, identity, and indigenous knowledge. Governments need to prepare for the loss and damage that can no longer be avoided while taking into account the loss and damage beyond the material things.

The world leaders who are meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss the global climate negotiation at COP27 must understand that the climate crisis needs immediate systemic solutions rather than more declarations without any impactful implementation. The governments of developed countries must address the growing gap on adaptation, loss and damage, and climate injustices. COP27 and COP28 could be our last chance to come up with urgent and dramatic actions to keep emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal as well as ensure climate justice for vulnerable communities. In other words, it is about implementing the ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures and finance plans. 

It’s been more than 12 years since rich countries promised to increase climate finance at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009. But most developed countries did not meet their commitment to mobilize $100bn per year by 2020 to support developing countries to adapt and mitigate climate change. They are not doing enough on their commitments. In COP27, the developed countries must ensure that the most vulnerable communities have access to adequate resources and technical support to deal with the devastating impact of the climate crisis. All countries should contribute in a just and fair manner to phase out the burning of fossil fuels and implement strict action to halve emissions by 2030, on the way to net zero emissions.

The developing countries also need to understand that since they are already facing the burden of climate change, more than ever they need to support their communities. India is taking a leadership role to demand that the rich countries that have been historically responsible for the huge emissions, and that they pay a fair share of the climate finance to ensure low-income countries have access to necessary resources to prepare themselves for the adverse effects of climate change and to decarbonise their economies. But at the same time, the Indian government must respond to the destructive impacts of climate change within the country. It needs to ensure that it is taking enough action to support its communities that are already bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and take steps to halve its emissions by 2030.

We know that the developed countries have already failed us. India has an opportunity to show exemplary leadership by implementing socially just climate action and ensuring support to the lives and livelihood of its people.

(This article was originally published in Deccan Herald).


The author is the Campaign Manager at Greenpeace India and is a Steering Committee member of Mineral Inheritors Rights Association.