What to look out for at COP26

All eyes will be on the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26 from October 31 to November 12, a high-stakes event that has been delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COP26 is particularly critical as it marks the fifth year since the signing of the Paris Agreement. adopted by 196 parties in 2015. Those watching the event expect countries to commit to more ambitious targets for reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, an effect of the “ratchet mechanism” of the Paris Agreement which obliges them to do so every five years.

The goal of the agreement is to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (ºC), preferably 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels. It also provides a framework for financial, technical and capacity building support to countries in need.

There will be a lot going on at COP26, and it will be difficult for one person to keep up with everything happening at once. On Thursday, October 28, Renee Karunungan from the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research and Manka Behl from India time talked to reporters on the Asia-specific issues that we should pay attention to at this high-profile event.

Impact of climate change on the economy

A report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in August said that the Earth was warming faster than experts predicted and that an increase in global warming of 1.5 ° C above the pre-industrial levels could be reached by 2030.

Southeast Asia (SEA) is one of the regions most vulnerable to this situation, as it will experience sea level rise, heat waves, drought and more intense and longer rainfall events. frequent. With many low-lying cities at risk from sea level rise, SEA economies are vulnerable without adaptation or mitigation.

Global warming was identified by the IPCC as a threat to SEA economies even in 2014, with forecasts of significant declines in crop yields and reduced catches of marine resources.

More recently, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) identified climate change as a “threat multiplier”, jeopardizing the food and nutrition security of populations. Communities that depend on agriculture, fishing and livestock are bearing the brunt of the impact of climate change, WFP said.

Asia’s dependence on fossil fuels

Coal, one of the most polluting fossil fuels, is constantly used for power generation in Asia, which accounts for 75% of global coal demand according to the International Energy Agency.

A September report from think tank E3G said China alone is home to around 53% of the world’s new coal-fired power generation capacity under construction. The country is responsible for financing overseas coal projects.

Some countries like the Philippines have pledged not to approve new coal projects but will continue to build existing coal-fired power plants.

Meanwhile, other Asian countries refuse to abandon coal power because of the cost of abandoning factories or mines that are still in operation.

Melting Himalayan glaciers

The world’s glaciers are melting faster and contributing to sea level rise. A study published this year, which used high-resolution images from NASA’s Terra satellite between 2000 and 2019, found that some glaciers in the he Himalayas, as well as those of Alaska, Iceland, the Alps and the Pamir Mountains, are among the hardest hit by melting.

The Himalayan mountain range runs through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal, along with communities in the Himalayan region to depend on glaciers for water. People use these glaciers for drink, energy, agriculture, etc., which means their melting could lead to food and water shortages.

Climate justice, impact on small countries

Although Asia is home to some of the largest biggest carbon emitters – China, India, Japan and South Korea – other Asian countries are more concerned about climate impact than mitigation.

Small Island Developing States in particular, such as Fiji and the Maldives, contribute Less than 1% to total global GHG emissions, but will suffer the most from climate change and sea level rise. Other small island states such as the Marshall Islands have found it necessary to adapt to sea level rise, considering building higher grounds or migrating outwards.

Small island states were the first to demand a 1.5°C reduction in 2008, but this target was deemed unrealistic by other states at the time. – with reports from the Thomson Reuters Foundation/Rappler.com

Teresa H. Sadler