The formation of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the United Nations in 1988 added a new dimension to climate science, particularly on the assessment of human-induced climate change impacts and its potential distribution around the world – at least to determine the most vulnerable regions.
The IPCC studies substantiate the necessity of prompt actions and suggest appropriate options for adaptation to climate change and mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.
On the other hand, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which came into effect in 1994, has been providing the platform conducive to the parties, who ratified the convention, to undertake climate actions.
Every year, the UNFCCC organises the Conference of the Parties (COP), where 197 parties come together to discuss and set either climate goals or design different instruments to combat anthropogenic climate change.
For instance, COP16 in 2010 spearheaded the incubation of Green Climate Fund (GCF) while COP21 in 2015 catalysed the signing of Paris Agreement, incorporating important climate goals and binding climate change responses by all countries under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
However, many of the problems that emanate today are not due to lack of knowledge or absence of evidence but rather unwillingness to accept the facts and the tendency to follow the business-as-usual (BAU) suit to some extent.
For instance, the early warning of Covid-19, immediately after the first few infections, fell on deaf ears and as a result, the entire world is paying the high price, which we may need to internalise until the appropriate vaccine becomes available.
Likewise, calls from different quarters of the world, including scientists, activists, the climate change vulnerable countries have failed to create the much-needed alacrity among the policymakers regarding tangible and ambitious actions on the ground to arrest irreversible damage to the world.
While we claim to be more aware and educated on the negative impacts of climate change than any time of the past, our regular activities and resource consumption patterns narrate a different story.
As a result, the goal of limiting CO2 concentration compatible with a global mean temperature rise of 2° C, based on the Paris Agreement, currently seems to be too far from reality.
The CO2 concentration level in the atmosphere may overshoot to potentially raise the global warming even beyond 3° C. Evidence from pre-Covid-19 days also portrayed the grim prospect of crossing 2° C threshold with the likelihood of failing to avoid severe consequences of climate change.
Understandably, there has been a temporary halt in increasing trajectory of CO2 emission, attributable to natural degrowth led by Covid-19, but it is nothing to celebrate. Different crises in the past also provided similar opportunities, which we had failed to utilise.
As countries underwent the economic rebuilding processes, many announced economic packages that claimed to be green recovery packages. Nevertheless, analysts and experts argued that some of the elements in these packages are in no way green and would ultimately promote BAU recovery.
Some experts also failed to ascertain as to how we would be on track to meet the Paris Climate goal of containing 2° C temperature rise let alone meeting a 1.5° C target. It is, therefore, necessary to enhance the level of ambition on GHG mitigation at country levels.
All countries shall consider a multitude of benefits of GHG mitigation, such as air quality improvement, heath benefit etc which normally fall under co-benefits category, while deciding on GHG abatement projects/activities rather than only projecting future benefits of such measures in global communities.
Often investment in mitigation projects is insufficient for lack of money whereas this cannot be the case as we all know that investment in weapons has never been a problem.
We often lose focus on climate change adaptation while the matter is turning more severe with each passing year. Hardly, there is any year without a drastic change in terms of climate change-induced events.
In summer 2018, while I was pursuing my degree on climate change in Germany, the temperature was constantly shooting up to 35 ° C or beyond, a rare phenomenon for many of my host institution in Berlin.
Some places in Germany experienced a much higher temperature in summer 2019 and a few other countries in Europe also reported a similar rise in temperature.
This year, we faced a very prolonged flood in Bangladesh, which as the experts feel, is an example of climate change-induced juggernaut. It also, perhaps, serves as the serious warning about the future which can be significantly changed by climatic conditions.
And notably, the rainfall pattern has completely changed over the years. What hopefully is clear, as of now, is that climate would continue to change and therefore, we would need to develop our capacity to adapt.
As such, the most vulnerable countries, like Bangladesh, shall take early preparations to fight climate change and the developed countries shall lead the channel of additional climate finance to the most vulnerable countries.
As appears from this analysis, we have enough evidence on the climate change led disasters and their adverse impacts that are likely to increase over the next decades.
Favourably, we have IPCC, which generates periodic assessments to lay the foundation for devising strategies vis-à-vis climate change at an individual country level and for setting the tone of climate negotiations at COPs, hosted under the auspices of UNFCCC.
We have, further, access to scientific information from the perspective of adaptation and mitigation, thanks to scholarly works of researchers and academia, that consistently raise not only awareness but also inspire people to take actions.
And the COP has its role to set goals for mitigation and adaptation and to reiterate the responsibilities of countries. Having said so, responsibilities, if truth be told, hinge on the individual country to spearhead the activities, which they have agreed at the COP.
To conclude, we have all the necessary platforms but what matters the most is the willingness of the countries to act on. Under BAU, the gap between real GHG emissions and the emission reductions essential to meet international climate goals would continue to be widening.
At the same time, climate change-induced disasters can no longer be taken lightly and delayed response would only incur an additional cost. Be that as it may, all countries shall enhance their ambitions in the NDCs in combination with long-term strategies to yield changes that would help the world to be Paris climate goals compatible.
As the COP of this year is postponed, we would have to wait until 2021 to observe if at all countries would pledge for greater efforts.
The author is a Humboldt Scholar. He is an engineer and environmental economist.