Written By: Niyanthri
Edited By: Erich
Visual By: Owen
Flooding. Forest fires. Food shortages. All consequences of climate change, each of which seem to be appearing in the news with increasing regularity. For this purpose, the COP27 conference has been portrayed almost as a cure-all for these issues. “Action towards achieving the world’s climate goals.” According to the United Nations, this is the official goal of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27). As suggested by the name, this year’s conference marks the 27th year that countries are coming together to act upon and discuss the progress made in relation to climate goals, as agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. COP27 will be held in Sheikh el-Sharm, Egypt, from November 9-18 with nearly 200 delegations – and more than 100 heads of state – in attendance.
The Paris Agreement, or Paris Accords, is a legally binding, international agreement ratified by 194 parties (193 independent states and the European Union) that set the agenda for climate protection in 2015. Its three main focuses are assuring that the increase in global temperatures would be maintained under two degrees celsius (preferably 1.5 degrees), reviewing countries’ obligations in regards to preventing further climate change, and providing less developed countries financing for pursuing their climate goals. In order to ensure that signatory nations carry out their responsibilities as agreed to in the Accords, it is mandatory that every nation creates and submits an updated version of their national plan to combat climate change every five years, called a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). To ensure that countries abide by the measures they set for themselves, the Conference of Parties (COP) convenes every year to discuss progress made on achieving the three aforementioned goals on the national and international level.
COP is intended to be a comprehensive way for countries to meet and advance on these incredibly relevant social issues in today’s world, and in many ways it is an improvement on previous efforts to make progress towards climate goals. However, it is also true that its efficacy has recently been called into question by the various objectives that countries have failed to achieve, of which many have not been fully held accountable for. There are a few important goals that the world is falling short of, not least of which is the commitment countries made seven years ago to halve food wastage by 2030. Despite this, three out of the top five biggest contributors to food waste in the world per capita— the US, Australia, and New Zealand—have increased the amount of food waste produced, regressing in terms of reaching the set objective.
Yet, perhaps a far more concerning and overarching objective that seems far from being accomplished is the cap on global warming to an increase of below 1.5 degrees celsius. The research group Climate Action Tracker states that, in spite of the promises made at COP26 to reduce emissions by 2030, the world is still on track to experience a 2.7 degree celsius increase in global temperature by the end of the century. The organisation places the blame for this on incredibly slow policy implementation by governments worldwide, which is nowhere near sufficient considering the urgency of the climate crisis.
While a 1.5 degree increase would reduce the negative impact on the environment, 2 degrees is also considered acceptable, seeing as it is more achievable and realistic. But that is not to say that an increase of 2 degrees would not have adverse repercussions such as a global warming event that would lead to worse storms, rapid extinctions of many plant and animal species, and according to NASA, a rise in sea levels of more than 0.2 metres. This would be disastrous for nations with large coasts, as well as those dependent on their fishing industries, which are mostly less developed countries, who are more vulnerable to experiencing increased flooding and water salinisation. So to speak, the nations most impacted by global warming would be those least equipped to handle it, which underscores the deep rooted inequality and geopolitical issues that arise in the debate over climate change.
COP27 is a step in the right direction, but is it enough? It seems evident that, although the convention unites nations on the world stage to discuss the biggest threat to the Earth today, the actions being taken are not enough to meet the lofty goals that were set at its inception. For it to truly make a meaningful change, there needs to be action from the ground up. Citizens must be ready to pressure their governments into making decisions that align with their NDCs, and bear the responsibility each individual has to safeguard the environment. Although governments and corporations are most capable of creating a large impact, it is true that individuals also need to do what is within their means. It is not acceptable to stand by idly as countries continually fail to abide by their commitments. To do so would be to invite preventable devastation upon the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and voiceless populations on the planet.
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