Arturo M Vidal
The Post COP26: A Global South Perspective
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Are nation-states giving the appropriate attention and priority to climate change impact?
Well, this is an excellent question that I have asked myself several times in the last few months. Even if the Glasgow climate pact signed at COP26 is a historic agreement because for some, it kept the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in reach, nonetheless, in reality, as the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said in Glasgow that the COP26 climate summit had been a “failure," could be true. She also argued that “We need immediate drastic annual emission cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen” (BBC 2021). Therefore, I asked myself another question; Are we really condemning future generations to live in a dangerous, uncertain, and depleted world instead of preventing and protecting them.
After the COP26, it is clear that the top-down policies or rules are not enough, this is why we need a structural and institutional transformation from the bottom up. This entails the need to increase speed into a green transformation. However, this requires the involvement of several actors and sectors that can contribute to innovate and collaborate in new ways. In order to do this, we will need to rethink and reform our institutions at all levels, from local to global. As Greta Thunberg said in Glasgow, we will need to reorient and reshape our current systems as soon as possible.
The COP26 hosted representatives from 194 countries and 120 world leaders, and approximately 38,000 accredited delegates attended. This has shown unity of purpose on the issue of climate in a world of fractured global politics (Sharma 2021). Climate change is a common and global issue that requires global action. Even if it is true that nation-states have different capacities to struggle with climate change, since they are in different phases of economic and social development. However, nevertheless, they will have to acknowledge that they have a shared responsibility in fighting the climate impact. India's Environment Minister, Bhupender Yadav, argued that “How can anyone expect that developing countries make promises about phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies? Developing countries still have to deal with their poverty reduction agenda” (Khadka 2021). Undoubtedly, China and India will have to explain to the world, but especially to the most climate-vulnerable nation-states, why they have pushed for changing the language on coal from the phasing out into phasing down in the deal agreed in Glasgow.
In the last decades, several natural events have demonstrated that millions of people are already suffering from the acute effects of a changing climate, where climate change is a shared global issue and that does not recognize borders and nationalities. For example, the Pacific islands are already suffering from climate impact. Brianna Fruean is a Samoan climate activist, student, and member of the Pacific Climate Warriors delegation at COP26. She, like many others, is asking that indigenous knowledge must be respected as a form of climate science, especially during this event (Sharma 2021). For a decade now, the storms and rising water in the Pacific have been getting more violent and destructive. The droughts have been more prolonged, and the floods deeper and fishers can no longer feed their families. All these events are connected to climate change that affects and increases social inequities around the globe (Fruean 2021). And yet, it seems as the priority here for some individuals is the comfort of one group over the lives of another, something that was shaped first by colonialism and then by capitalism. Brianna also argued that they refuse to leave their islands and that they will continue fighting as their ancestor did, as well as none will force them to migrate in order the world’s super-rich can continue burning oil and coal at the expense of others (Fruean 2021).
Can we say that nation-states are willing to compromise?
With the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic demonstrating the fundamental interdependencies between markets and sustainability issues, the urgency to build a coherent and complete system of standards, principles, and guidance for improving sustainability impacts has never been greater. Therefore, all nation-states need to commit to revisiting and strengthening their 2030 emissions reductions targets. Even more, they would have to develop mid-century net-zero strategies in 2022. Thunberg said, “we need immediate drastic annual emission cuts” (BBC 2021). Several scientists believe global warming could exceed 2,4C warming by 2100. This could lead to devastating heatwaves, droughts, extreme rainfall, and floods. To reach the 1.5C limit, nation-states must ensure to deliver the promises they have made in the COP26 and on the expectations set out in this pact to increase climate ambition to 2030 and beyond. Otherwise, it would be true about what Greta also said that this UN climate change summit was a “two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah” to “maintain business as usual” and “create loopholes to benefit themselves” (BBC 2021). However, what people do not want is that as we approach 2030, some nation-states will say that they will not achieve the Agenda 2030 goals and that they will have to continue working after 2030. They will condemn future generations to live in a dangerous, uncertain, and depleted world if this happens. Moreover, as a result, millions of individuals will lose not just their houses but also their homelands due to rising sea levels in the Pacific islands,.
Several activists from many nation-states are protesting and arguing how climate change is already affecting their homelands. For example, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda said, “…Africa is responsible for only 3% of global emissions and yet Africans are suffering some of the most brutal impacts fuelled by the climate crisis”. Therefore, it is essential to highlight that “…while the global south is on the frontlines of the climate crisis, they are not on the front pages of the world's newspapers” (BBC 2021). Furthermore, even if numerous nation-states from the global south do not count on all the support of the world leaders, they will not give up on this fight. Some small islands in developing nation-states face increasing threats from ocean acidification and heat and rising sea levels. According to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Climate change and extreme weather threaten the environment, human health, safety, water, food, and energy security in Latin America and the Caribbean (WMO 2021). For example, “2020 was among the three warmest years in Central America and the Caribbean, and the second warmest year in South America, with, 1.0°C, 0.8°C and 0.6°C above the long-term average of 1981-2010 climatological reference period, respectively” (WMO 2021). Approximately 57% of the planet’s remaining primary forests are Latin America and the Caribbean. They can store an estimated 104 gigatons of carbon and host 40-50% of the world’s biodiversity and one-third of all plant species. It is of enormous importance to highlight that climate change impacts the means of securing the necessities of life in the Latin America and Caribbean region. In the last 50 years, Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced an increased drought in southern Amazonia and the Pantanal region. This report explains how the multi-hazard early warning systems are underdeveloped and perhaps are not the priority in this region. If these nation-states have no proactive mindset, it can lead to irreversible damage to the planet’s ecosystem with the mass extinction of many animal and plant species. The report “includes transboundary analyses, such as the South American Pantanal drought and the intense hurricane season in Central America-Caribbean. It also projected changing precipitation patterns, more sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and marine heatwaves” (WMO 2021). The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) nation-states are not just facing climate change. Like many other developing nations around the world, they are having several economic, social, and health issues caused by COVID-19. For example, the COVID-19 and the climate crises combined increase inequities, poverty, reduce job creation, and negatively affect the nation's revenues that directly impact income distribution. Therefore, I am still wondering how developing nation-states can confront the COVID-19 and the climate impact together without the support of developed nation-states? Even so, those two are global and common issues affecting humanity, not just nation-states. Of course, there have to be many diverse alternatives to face them. However, we are sure that we need engagement, commitment, collaboration, and cooperation from developed and developing nation-states and the private sector. From my point of view, what governments need to do around the globe is to involve and mobilize the private sector to expand climate investments in developing nation-states that can have a significant effect and impact in different areas such as clean energy, forest restoration, green transport, marine conservation, urban resilience, and climate-smart agriculture among others.
Several studies show that climate change could push 3 million individuals a year into extreme poverty by 2030. In the case of the Andean nation-states, climate change represents the loss of a significant source of fresh water used for consumption, irrigation, and hydroelectric power and contributes to rising sea levels. They are suffering from the melting of their glaciers, which poses an additional burden for their development. While the developing nation-states are struggling to recover from COVID-19, they will need support in making investments that can improve and help them create more green jobs in the coming months to increase their competitiveness in a climate-changing world.
In conclusion, the COP26 has demonstrated growth in trust between nation-states and a genuine determination to reach an agreement. However, it is difficult to say what nation-states are trully committed to this global challenge and their priorities in their agendas. Therefore, if the nation-states do not collaborate and cooperate in the coming months against climate change, the coming UN climate conference will not have the desired impact. The next UN climate conference will be held in Egypt. This COP27 is a crucial summit in ensuring that all nation-states can commit to limiting global heating to 1.5C in Sharm el-Sheikh next year.
This article aims to present a brief description and provide some explanations from different approaches to the climate change impact and its consequences and give better understandings of the Post COP26 situation. Many children and young individuals were protesting and saying in Glasgow that is not enough and we must and can do much more because many believe that this UN climate change summit had failed to deliver (BBC 2021). There is a growing need to create projects that help to mitigate risks of extreme weather and hydrology change in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, transport, and energy in developing nation-states. Unfortunately, the global south is often exposed and vulnerable to climate change. Therefore, as the report from WMO highlights, the importance of more outstanding political commitment and more financial support to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and to the joint effort of all nations, both developed and developing nation-states, is vital. Now I wonder; Is coal really on its way out? If yes, When?
BBC 2021. COP26: Greta Thunberg tells protest that COP26 has been a ‘failure’. Online, [online] 5 November. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-59165781
[Accessed 07 December 2021].
Brianna Fruean 2021. The Guardian: Pacific islanders aren’t just victims – we know how to fight the climate crisis. Online, [online] 2 November. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/02/pacific-islanders-fight-climate-crisis-cop26
[Accessed 07 December 2021].
Navin Singh Khadka 2021. BBC: COP26: Did India betray vulnerable nations? Environment correspondent, BBC World Service. Online, [online] 16 November. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-59286790
[Accessed 07 December 2021].
Alok Sharma 2021. The guardian: Cop26 kept the world’s 1.5C limit in reach – now we will steer it over the line. Online, [online] 23 November. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/23/cop26-limit-in-reach-uk-presidency-glasgow-climate
[Accessed 07 December 2021].
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (2021). New report shows impacts of climate change and extreme weather in Latin America and Caribbean. Published 17 August 2021. Available at: https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/new-report-shows-impacts-of-climate-change-and-extreme-weather-latin-america-and
[Accessed 07 December 2021].