The United Nations climate summit in Dubai, known as COP26, is expected to finalize a global agreement to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The agreement would require countries to submit updated plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions every five years, starting from 2023. It would also set a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, and provide financial and technical support to developing countries to cope with the impacts of climate change.
Some of the countries that are most at risk from the effects of climate change, such as small island states, low-lying coastal nations, and drought-prone regions, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed agreement. They argue that it does not reflect the urgency and scale of the crisis, and that it fails to address the issue of loss and damage, which refers to the irreversible harm caused by climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and biodiversity loss.
These countries have called for the establishment of a separate fund to compensate them for the loss and damage they have already suffered, and to help them adapt to the future challenges. They have also demanded that the agreement include a clear commitment to phase out the use of fossil fuels, which are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions. They have warned that if these demands are not met, they will not sign the agreement, and that it would amount to a “death warrant” for their people and their future.
How have the major emitters responded?
The major emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, such as the United States, China, India, and the European Union, have acknowledged the concerns of the vulnerable countries, but have also stressed the need for a realistic and balanced agreement that can be accepted by all parties. They have argued that the agreement already contains provisions for enhancing ambition, providing finance, and addressing loss and damage, and that further negotiations are needed to iron out the details and modalities.
They have also pointed out that they have taken significant steps to increase their own climate action, such as setting net-zero targets, investing in renewable energy, and pledging to end coal financing. They have urged the vulnerable countries to show flexibility and compromise, and to join them in creating a “historic” and “transformative” agreement that can put the world on a path to a low-carbon and resilient future.
What are the prospects for a successful outcome?
The climate summit, which started on November 1 and is scheduled to end on November 12, has entered its final and crucial phase, where the ministers and leaders of the participating countries will try to bridge the gaps and reach a consensus on the agreement. The outcome of the summit will depend on the willingness and ability of the countries to find common ground and to make the necessary concessions and trade-offs.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has appealed to the countries to show leadership and solidarity, and to listen to the voices of the most vulnerable and the most affected by climate change. He has warned that the world is facing a “climate emergency” and that the window of opportunity to limit the global warming to 1.5°C is rapidly closing. He has urged the countries to “choose between life and death” and to “seal the deal” that can secure the future of humanity and the planet.