After the flashflood of international media coverage of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, the climate emergency has now fallen off the headlines. The Nepali delegation has returned after setting ambitious targets for forestry, adaptation and net-zero.
Now, the real work begins. It is time to walk the talk, so that the people of Manang and Melamchi who suffered devastating floods this monsoon do not just get relief, but are protected from future climate calamities.
My own home and farm along the Melamchi was washed away by the freak floods of 15-16 July, and there is no doubt that the severity of extreme weather has increased due to the warming trend in the Himalaya.
Despite being pitted as a ‘make-or-break’ climate summit that would set strict global targets to reduce carbon emissions by 45% from 2010 levels in the next nine years, and net-zero by 2050, to keep the warming at 1.5°, the UN conference was reduced to just a photo-op for leaders from over 140 countries and their 40,000+ delegates.
Aside from their own combined carbon emissions for roundtrips to Glasgow, the leaders did not show the needed commitment to limit global heating to below 2° Celsius, let alone 1.5°.
In fact, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) submitted by 194 countries will bring down the warming to only 2.4°. Global carbon emission cuts are needed to prevent continental-scale wildfires, more extreme heat waves, flash-floods, glacial melt, and mass extinctions.
The summit also came short in delivering committed finance to developing countries and addressing loss and damage issues. At most, the two-week-long intense negotiations ended with the adoption of the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact,’ which was watered down with the last minute change from coal ‘phaseout’ to ‘phasedown’. But semantics aside, the explicit mention of coal reduction in the climate summit was indication that fossil fuels may finally be on their way out.
Even so, the COP26 outcomes did not meet the expectations of countries like Nepal. The Nepal delegation sent a clear message about the urgency of tackling the planetary emergency, citing recent experiences of climate-induced disasters in the country, and pledged to do its bit.
Developing countries failed to get desired commitments from industrialised countries about compensation for climate-induced disasters, especially on the agenda of ‘loss and damage’ which would have directly benefited Nepal.
The demand of developing countries in establishing the Loss and Damage Facility to finance and support poor and vulnerable nations where climate adaptation limits are exhausted was limited to agreeing on the functions and financing arrangements for technical assistance under the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage.
The failure of developed countries to jointly mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action was met with harsh criticism prompting them to lay out the ‘Climate Finance Delivery Plan’ in meeting the previous commitment as well as pledge to double the adaptation finance by 2025.
Similarly, a clear roadmap was developed to decide on a new collective quantified goal on climate finance going beyond 2025 from a floor of $100 billion per year. A work program from 2022 to 2024 to deliberate and agree on a new goal has been set up.
COP26 completed the remaining elements of the Paris Agreement ‘Rulebook’ that had been pending for six years. Market and non-market rules for trading carbon credits have been agreed upon by allowing nations to meet their NDC target by offsetting through green projects in other countries.
Developing countries including Nepal gain to benefit from investment in renewable energy, forest protection and other carbon reduction projects through the flow of capital and technology transfer. A levy of 5% from these projects will go to the Adaptation Fund to support adaptation actions in developing countries.
Industrialised nations have committed to double adaptation finance with grant components. They have also pledged nearly $1.5 billion to the Adaptation Fund (AF), Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). Nepal must reap benefits from these limited opportunities for its climate action.
If Nepal is to benefit from any of these outcomes and international agreements, it will have to start meticulous preparation. More importantly, we need to craft a robust implementation plan with the neediest and the most vulnerable at the centre, to meet the climate targets we have committed to in the NDC and the National Adaptation Plan submitted to the UN.
At the end of the day, attending international conferences and raising mountain issues will not protect local communities from the worsening impacts of the climate crisis. These climate summits provide guidance, but most of our work has to be done here at home.
Let us start with what is within our resources: build climate resilient communities by electrifying transport and cooking, reduce the import bill and improve public health.