2022 aims to see words turn into climate action, accelerate energy transition

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2021 is a wrap despite a year scarred by the pandemic and vagaries of extreme weather, fueled by climate change, that not only grappled the developing but also plagued much of the developed world, this year helped lay the groundwork for a global shift toward sustainable development and a more equitable society in 2022.

The buzzword for 2021 was net-zero in climate policy as countries struggled to pull together long-term economic strategies.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) signalled a “code red” for humanity, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

For India, it was the whirlwind year for climate crisis with bouts of extreme rain and flooding with exceptionally temperamental monsoons, besides wildfires in North America, floods in China, across Europe and parts of Africa, and heatwaves in Siberia

The planet can’t wait.

Keeping this urgency in forefront, Britain, the host to the just concluded UN Climate Change Conference named COP26 in Glasgow after a year of delay owing to the pandemic, negotiated tough with governments and businesses of nearly 200 nations to increase climate ambition and take immediate action to help halve global emissions in the next decade and reach net-zero emissions by mid-century in order to create a more sustainable world.

So what about life moves forward from the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact, a ‘fragile win’ amongst all the parties at COP26 to have to halve emissions and shift to a nature-positive economy by 2030 on the path to reaching net zero by 2040 with a commitment to phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil subsidies, to COP27 that will take place in Egypt in November 2022.

Despite Europe set its all-time record for the hottest summer in 2021, the roadmap for 2022 is the world’s most pressing questions:

How to accelerate the energy transition and build more resilient communities? Will net-zero climate commitments become more credible by making meaningful investments into climate action? What will happen to the bold commitments to end deforestation, the surge in electric vehicles, and much more?

The big question is: Will they deliver?

The powerful words from Sir David Attenborough say, “It is why it will be so important for countries to follow through in 2022 on the commitments to climate action they made at COP26”.

Climate veterans told IANS a transition to a carbon-free economy is impossible without transforming the way globe generates its energy.

Though the world still mostly reliant on fossil fuels to power lives, in the past decade solar and wind power alone have grown from 1.7 per cent of global electricity generation to around 8.7 per cent.

This upward trend is expected to continue in 2022 and beyond.

“A net-zero future is possible, but first we need to flip a mental switch to truly understand that we can stop the climate crisis if we try,” says Nobel laureate Al Gore.

However, many world leaders were left disappointed by finance negotiations held in Glasgow with no commitment to give $100bn a year to developing countries as pledged in 2009.

Bhutan, representing the group of Least Developed Countries (LDC), lamented that public statements made by countries often differ to what is heard at the negotiations.

“We came to Glasgow with high expectations. We need strong commitments to ensure the survival of the billion people living in the LDCs in the future”, said the country’s representative on ‘adaptation day’.

The annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), expected to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt in 2022, is expected to see more access of adaptation finance as annual costs in developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion.

According to the UNEP, this figure is expected to reach $140-300 billion in 2030 and $280-500 billion in 2050. An increase in financing will be critical for countries to meet their adaptation goals.

With the urgency for adaptation in the developing world, the next UN climate negations are expected to advance the climate talks, mobilize action, and provide a significant opportunity to look at the impacts of climate change in Africa.

A newly-released report by the World Meteorological Organization and partners, the State of the Climate in Africa 2020, warned of the continent’s disproportionate vulnerability, estimating that by 2030, up to 118 million extremely poor Africans will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat.

With 2021 full of climate effort, what needs to be done in 2022 to keep holding governments to account in 2022?

The world needs a catalytic shift toward climate action with a cut in greenhouse gas emissions, ending fossil fuel subsidies and new fossil fuel projects, cutting methane, the second largest contributor to global warming, stopping deforestation and finance must be the golden thread for climate diplomacy.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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