Global Warming: Rich nations show they don’t care

It is no surprise that the CoP25 (Conference of Parties) that was held in Madrid over the last fortnight concluded without any significant results to show for an agreement on policies and action to counter global warming. There was a partial agreement to ask countries to come up with more ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the terms of the 2015 Paris accord, but that only masks an overall failure. About 200 countries that had assembled in Madrid were expected to improve on their 2015 Paris commitments as these have been seen to be inadequate to achieve the aim of containing global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The meeting was also expected to make a blueprint for the implementation of the agreement.  

Only 70 countries, who are in any case not major polluters, agreed to raise their commitments, though the EU and some others decided that they would work to reach net zero emissions by 2050. They also persuaded the conference to pass a resolution that called for stronger national plans on cutting carbon. Developing countries were upset over the refusal of the rich nations to make any more commitments and concessions. There was much disagreement over the wording of provisions for “loss and damage’’ under which developing countries have to get funds to cope with climate change. There was no consensus, and the old promise of $100 billion per year remains elusive. Issues like the working of the global carbon market, a legacy of the Kyoto Protocol, were also discussed with no palpable progress. The system had allowed trade in emission reduction credits by making it possible for a country to sell carbon credits to others. Decisions on this and on finances have been postponed to the next meeting in Glasgow in 2020. 

Rich countries, which are also the biggest polluters and have created the present crisis, were responsible for the failure of the meet to come up with a solid outcome. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world has lost an opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the crisis. He said he is disappointed but “we should not give up’’. That should sum up the sentiment and concern of much of the world. The challenge now is to achieve in the next few months an agreement that has not been achieved in the past many decades. All countries, including India, will have to do much more to avert the impending catastrophe.

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