COP 26, the UN Climate Conference, ended on 13 November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Analysts have been assessing the values of the attained progress in global climate talks. Surely, the parties (197 countries who took part in the UN climate conference) have different agendas and assessment viewpoints. Therefore, it is unlikely that all the participants would evaluate the conference outcomes from the same standpoints.
However, there is consensus on certain issues and the parties agree to continue dialogue, meet again next year in Egypt and have agreed to carry forward their efforts to work out ways to restrict global atmospheric temperature within 1.5 degree Celsius to abate climate disasters.
The parties have agreed to cut Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (as a mitigation measure for atmospheric temperature rise) at a faster rate and considered appropriate reviewing the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) annually (not once in every five years, as agreed in 2015 in Paris Climate Conference and in Paris Climate accord as the parties agreed that the present available NDC are inadequate to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degree Celsius). The review of NDCs and determining the appropriate level to achieve GHG emission within the agreed time table (not the pledged Net Zero achievement targets at 2050, 2060 or 2070 as many countries announced) for 2030 may help attain some visible changes in the global climate change.
Parties also agreed to ‘phase down’ coal and other fossil fuel use and discussed to limiting ongoing huge subsidies in different forms for fossil fuels. Despite pressures from industrially developed countries, decisions for ‘phasing out’ of coal was not possible to agree within the parties.
Despite an agreed decision in the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 to create an annual US$100 billion fund from 2020 to help the developing countries cut GHG emissions and to cope with (adapt) the global climate crisis impacts, only US$80 billion were made available in 2021. Major parts of the available climate financing so far have been directed to GHG emission cutting projects (for example, for the renewable energy development projects at the middle income countries) and the poor and most vulnerable (due to climate change) countries receive no funds to their needs for financing climate change adaptation schemes. The UN and the parties of the climate conference participants raised the issue for at least ‘a 50:50 split between the funding for emission cuts and funding for adaptation’. The COP26 agreed to ‘double the proportion of climate finance going to adaptation’ but the details to be worked out.
The COP26 agreed to the finalized ‘Rule Book’ targeting to help get the Paris Climate Conference 2015 aims and actions for establishment of a transparent carbon trading mechanism. The Paris Climate Conference had outlined the vision of a global trade in emission reductions in the carbon markets. Within the provisions, a country that intends to sell carbon credits (each carbon credit refers to one tonne of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere by a forestry restoration project or by implementing a renewable energy project or energy efficiency efforts so that it prevents producing CO2) should achieve the target set under the Paris Climate Agreement. Any ‘over achievement’ by a country can be sold to another country that did not meet its set climate targets. Countries can trade carbon among themselves; private companies can invest and sell the carbon credits. As per the ‘Rule Book’ any such carbon credit transfer should be verifiable, genuine and help reduce CO2 and other GHGs. The Russian Federation proposed for unifying the international system of calculating carbon units and to establish a market for carbon trading.
For many countries, it is really unphysical and unacceptable to rapidly increase renewable energy share and switch off their existing GHS emitting industries, power plants, natural gas hydrate methane emission etc. While gradually shifting from polluting industries and power generation infrastructures, the countries may take advantage of the global carbon markets.
The list of frustration remains among the parties in COP26 for not accomplishment of an agreement among the parties on total restriction on subsidizing fossil fuel, phasing out coal, meeting the commitments for allocating US$100 billion annual funds for the climate vulnerable countries for their adaptation efforts, including technology transfer, capacity development and for compensating the loss and damage (they have been incurring due to unabated pollution for several decades by the industrially developed countries, unwillingness of the ‘developed west’ to engage in negotiations with the developing nations to find out ways and to finance for fighting climate disasters).
The Chinese and Indian positions on different climate issues have been widely discussed in the media while covering COP26 discussions. The positive expectations on climate cooperation further improved as the largest two polluting countries and the two largest economies of the world, USA and China have agreed to cooperate in climate issues despite their differences in several other major global and regional issues. The Russian Federation has tried to promote some issues in the COP26 as well. They wanted ‘technological neutrality’ involving among others recognition of nuclear energy as ‘green’. Russia also proposed to focus less on emission cutting measures rather than emission absorption (Russia has huge carbon absorbing forest resources).
The industrially developed western countries have been trying to consolidate their global leadership in the process of the fight against global warming and they considered that their ‘close to green economy’ will enable them to take the lead. On the contrary, China, Russia, and many other developing nations are suspicious about the agendas of the ‘west’ and want to turn them from some narrow interests into universal rules for everyone.
Bangladesh intended to cut carbon emissions approximately 90 million tonnes (22%) within 2030 as it has communicated in the COP26. If Bangladesh maintains business as usual (that is, it does take no initiative to reduce GHG emissions), the country’s GHG emissions will go up to 409 million tonnes in 2030. It may be mentioned that Bangladesh’s 55% carbon emissions come from the power sector (mainly dependent on fossil fuel burning such as natural gas and LNG, furnace oil, diesel, coal) followed by industries, transport, agriculture, brick kilns, commercial activities etc. The ambitious goal for attaining the GHG emission reduction target within 2030 demands major policy shifts, large investment and huge capacity development within the country including for human capital development. Bangladesh targets 60,000 megawatts of electricity generation in 2041 including with 40% renewable energy share. The present installed capacity of electricity generation in the country stands at 24,000 including 700 MW renewable energy. The government earlier had a set target for attaining 10% share of electricity generation from renewable sources within 2020. The real achievement is far behind the target of renewable energy development. The State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources of Bangladesh has shown his confidence in achieving the goal as the government’s determination was communicated to the international forums including in the Climate Vulnerable Forum, where Bangladesh is the chair. So far, there is no clear roadmap on the plans and strategies for attaining the 40% renewable energy share within the next 20 years for the country. Sector experts are unsure that Bangladesh may attain 40% target of renewable energy as there is no credible roadmap so far for attaining the targets.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change hopes that within 2030 the transport sector will see major shift as several thousand electric and hybrid vehicles along with electric trains, energy efficient and less polluting fuel oil vehicles will be moving in the country’s wide roads and approximately 86,000 unfit and polluting vehicles will be withdrawn from the roads. Also, it is hoped that the hugely polluting brick kilns (nearly 6,000 at present in the country) will seize their operations (within 2024) and compressed hollow brick blocks will replace the age-old bricks as the major construction materials in the country. The ministry further wants to encourage technology shifts in agriculture and industries and in commercial activities to enable energy savings and energy efficient activities. Further, the ministry considers that the solid waste management will be significantly improved by using the technology for waste to electric energy, incinerating harmful wastes and by implementing integrated landfill for waste management. The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change also intendsto increase forest cover from the present 22% to 24% in 2030.